Having been born in the late 1980s, I was fortunate to have missed the devastation and chaos that was the AIDs epidemic. A truly horrifying disease even today, it claimed the lives of countless people and sparked the need for social and medical change. Body Counts: A Memoir of Activism, Sex, and Survival is Sean Strub’s personal account of politics and the AIDs epidemic in the 1980s.
As a teen growing up in Iowa, Strub could be found not memorizing sports stats, but the political careers of power-players on Capitol Hill. Eventually he makes his own way to Washington, DC as a Georgetown student, but drops out and moves to New York City at a time when AIDs activists begin to take center stage. He was at John Lennon’s building the night he was shot. He was there to hang out with Andy Warhol and Tennessee Williams. He was also there when he fell in love with a man and there when he contracted the HIV virus. Strub tested HIV-positive in 1985 and lost many friends and loved ones to AIDs. In 1995, he became so sick that he was sure that he would die, as well. Luckily he survived thanks to protease inhibitors and other HIV-fighting drugs. His activism – although radical – made a mark in the fight against AIDs.
I was fortunate to have heard the audiobook version, narrated by playwright/director/actor David Drake. His narration keeps the story at a comfortable pace with enough emotion to maintain interest without being over-dramatic. Hearing the story read aloud truly made it come to life.
I liked “reading” (hearing) about Strub’s journey through Washington politics: starting small as a senate elevator operator and rising up (pun intended). However, I found a good deal of the book to be one name-drop after another while more could have been said about his many remarkable achievements. Regardless, there was a lot to learn from this impressive man.
Twisted Talk: Do you like to listen to audiobooks? Will you read Body Counts? Discuss below!