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Outwords Books Welcomes
Michael H. Ward
, The Sea is Quiet Tonight

Monday, May 15 @ 7:00pm

In advance of Michael H. Ward's appearance at Outwords Books, please find below an excerpt adapted from an interview of Michael by Don Weise, editor and publisher of Querelle Press, that was published in the Lambda Literary Review.

In my experience working with gay authors writing about the early years of the AIDS epidemic, I find that catharsis is a major motivating factor for storytelling. Has that been true for you?

I wasn’t consciously motivated by catharsis, but initially it was the most powerful force. As I read through my journals from those three years, I was constantly flooded with feelings: joy, anger, grief. I hadn’t reread my journals in thirty years, so all of those feelings arose freshly. What I hear from people at my readings is the same kind of shock I felt: How could I have blocked this terrible sense of loss for so long? How could I still feel so much pain after three decades?

What do you hope to accomplish by chronicling the dawn of AIDS?

Two things come to mind. The first is to help those of us who did survive to reexamine events and relationships as a way to allow the past and present to coexist more easily. For many, there is a lot to come to terms with. I have a friend here on the Cape who was a buddy to more than one hundred men in Provincetown who died of AIDS in the 80s. She became afraid she would forget them, that their stories would blur, so she wrote a journal, one page for each man, chronicling what made each one unique.

My second hope is that my book will reach young people to whom AIDS is an historical period, like World War II was to my generation, something my parents talked about but that had no personal meaning to me. Young people tend to believe that they are immortal, and young gay people know that there are drugs that will keep them alive even if they contract HIV/AIDS. What they don’t understand is that there are side effects to these medications and that they may be susceptible to other illnesses as a result. They will also always be dependent on antiviral drugs. If they are impacted by the reality of AIDS in my memoir, perhaps they’ll make safer choices in their sexual behavior.

Mark was only the hundredth person diagnosed in all of Massachusetts in the fall of 1983. How did living outside the two primary epicenter cities, New York and San Francisco, impact your experience with AIDS?

I think that living in a major city, but not New York or San Francisco, was advantageous. What we heard and read about that was happening in those cities was terrifying, food trays left in hallways and patients languishing in back wards. In Boston, the medical establishment reacted quickly to what they saw happening in other cities and got organized. Dr. Jerome Groopman came from Los Angeles to work in Infectious Diseases at the Deaconess Hospital, and he was as well-informed as anyone in the country. He was also unfailingly kind, helpful, and supportive. Mark was fortunate (if I can use such a word here) to have Dr. Groopman as his primary caregiver.

What’s important to you for readers to know about your book?

With some fear and trembling I sent a copy of my memoir to an 80 year old Franciscan nun who had been an inspiration to me spiritually. Her emailed response opened with the words, “My God, what a love story!” That’s what I want readers to know: it’s a love story.

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