We Can Be Heroes: A Survivor’s Story

Little A. Jun. 2023. 320p. ISBN 9781662501050. pap. $16.99. MEMOIR
Growing up gay at the height of the AIDS epidemic, novelist Burston (The Black Path) made a name for himself as an AIDS activist and outspoken supporter of LGBTQIA+ rights in 1980s London. He also established the Polari Prize, a literary award for debut books by LGBTQIA+ authors. This candid memoir explores the trauma of watching friends and loved ones die from complications of AIDS and details the fear of the early years of the virus when transmission and prevention methods were unknown. As a journalist, Burston interviewed and socialized with many famous actors and musicians who were instrumental in increasing LGBTQIA+ representation awareness and helping gay culture to be incorporated into mainstream media. He recounts—with dry wit and sarcastic asides—many of these interactions and their impact on him personally and the gay community. His frank expressions and conversational tone give the impression that readers are close friends, not strangers and observers. This book is a vibrant snapshot of ’80s pop culture, a recent historical accounting of LGBTQIA+ culture, laws, and perceptions in the UK, and a deeply personal account of how these elements shaped one man’s life and career.
VERDICT Recommended for public and academic libraries.
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