Living and Loving in the Age of AIDS
by Derek Frost
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 13 Apr 2021 | Archive Date 6 Apr 2021
Watkins, Watkins Publishing
Derek, a distinguished designer and J, his husband, a pioneering entrepreneur and creator of both The Embassy Club, London’s answer to Studio 54, and iconic Heaven, Europe’s largest gay discotheque, met and fell in love more than 40 years ago.
Their lives were high-octane, full of adventure, fun and fearless creativity. Suddenly their friends began to get sick and die – AIDS had arrived in their lives. When they got tested, J received what was then a death sentence: he was HIV Positive. While the onset of AIDS strengthened stigma and fear globally, they confronted their personal crisis with courage, humour and an indomitable resolve to survive. J’s battle lasted six long years. Turning to spiritual reflection, yoga, nature – and always to love – Derek describes a transformation of the spirit, how compassion and empathy rose phoenix-like from the flames of sickness and death. Out of this transformation also came Aids Ark, the charity they founded, which helped to save, amongst the world’s most marginalised people, more than 1,000 HIV Positive lives.
This is a story of joy and triumph; about facing universal challenges; about the great rewards that come from giving back. Derek speaks for a generation who lived through a global health crisis that many in society refused even to acknowledge. His is a powerful story chronicling this extraordinary time.
'This is the story of a life interwoven with HIV and the author and his husband's mission to bring hope and relief to others. Derek Frost writes with unsentimental honesty: a stark witness that has been largely absent from the literature. This book is both a history and an inspiration.' - Matthew Parris
'Incredibly vivid, moving, and compelling. This book led me through all the pain and anguish and loss and also the love and the hope, all over again.' - Lord Chris Smith
'This is a powerful book, at once a love letter, a well-informed history of the AIDS epidemic, and the life-story of a beautiful young man in London, moving happily through the early days of gay liberation into a time of widespread anguish and despair.' - Del Kolve, Professor of English Literature UCLA, CA, USA
'This is a poignant and heart-touching memoir which gives the forty year global HIV pandemic a truly human face. It’s a book that epitomizes the human struggles of sexuality, privacy, belonging, exclusion and stigma all coloured by the complexity of worldwide viral contagion, untimely death and the advancing triumphs of medical innovation. Above all it is a story of coping, overcoming, generosity and enduring love.” - Linda-Gail Bekker, Professor of Medicine, President International AIDS Society 2016–2018, Co-Founder of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre and Health Foundation, Cape Town, South Africa.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 17 members
As a younger queer person, this memoir meant a lot to me. I can't imagine the pain and sorrow queer people living in the 1980s must have felt seeing so many of their friends die. It meant a lot that the author would share what must have been the hardest experiences of his life.
I had to persevere with this book at the beginning. The first section is all about Frost and his partner and their frankly opulent lives. Their great jobs, social lives, friends, privilege etc. There is nothing wrong with any of this, by the way, but I was confused because it didn't really tally with the title or description of the book. Having read it all, it actually works beautifully. You need to know what kind of life Frost and his partner J had in order to fully appreciate their losses that unfurl through the middle section of the book. All the beauty, all the friends, all the sanctuaries, gone, and the life that was left, although admittedly more easy than many people's, was increasingly tarnished and hollow. At one point the book reads like a roll call of the dead. It really is sobering to read. The final section is more redemptive when triple therapy comes along and with the restoration of J's health, the overwhelming need to give something back and help others. The epilogue where Frost explains his reasons for writing the book were also very illuminating and made me think of some of the passages in a clearer light. I think this is an important book in many ways.