Review of Viral: The Fight Against AIDS in America

Viral: The Fight Against AIDS in America
by Ann Bausum
Middle School, High School    Viking    166 pp.    g
6/19    978-0-425-28720-0    $17.99

“The first to die left behind little more than their names and brief stories of chaotic, terrifying deaths. Individual by individual, they went from being seemingly well to perplexingly ill in a matter of months.” When this mysterious illness struck a handful of gay American men in 1980–1981, nobody could know that the AIDS epidemic would ultimately kill more than 700,000 people before, in the late 1990s, medical advances made the dreaded disease something other than an automatic death sentence. Even so, more than one million Americans currently live with HIV/AIDS, with more being diagnosed every year. In a tightly written chronological narrative focusing on the bleakest years of the pandemic, Bausum writes compellingly, heartbreakingly, about the earliest days of panic in the gay community, the swiftness and relentlessness of the disease’s progression, disturbing federal government inaction and indifference, grassroots AIDS research and activism, the poignant legacy of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, and breakthrough scientific research. While the narrative is chock-full of information — names, dates, acronyms — Bausum never allows these details to obscure or overwhelm the humanity of the story. Interspersed captioned black-and-white photographs, too, underscore the story’s emotional impact. With Stonewall (rev. 7/15) and now Viral, Bausum has proven to be an impassioned and empathetic historian of gay rights for young adults. A moving author’s note, a timeline, a resource list, thorough source notes, a bibliography, and an index are appended.

From the May/June 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.

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