October 14, 2021

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Ryan Conrad, Berend McKenzie, Miranda Recht

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes editor MATTILDA BERNSTEIN SYCAMORE and contributors RYAN CONRAD, BEREND MCKENZIE, and MIRANDA RECHT for a discussion of their new anthology, Between Certain Death and a Possible Future: Queer Writing on Growing up with the AIDS Crisis


Every queer person lives with the trauma of AIDS, and this plays out intergenerationally. Usually we hear about two generations—the first, coming of age in the era of gay liberation, and then watching entire circles of friends die of a mysterious illness as the government did nothing to intervene. And now we hear about younger people growing up with effective treatment and prevention available, unable to comprehend the magnitude of the loss. But there is another generation between these two, one that came of age in the midst of the epidemic with the belief that desire intrinsically led to death, and internalized this trauma as part of becoming queer.

Between Certain Death and a Possible Future: Queer Writing on Growing up with the AIDS Crisis offers crucial stories from this missing generation in AIDS literature and cultural politics. This wide-ranging collection includes 36 personal essays on the ongoing and persistent impact of the HIV/AIDS crisis in queer lives. Here you will find an expansive range of perspectives on a specific generational story—essays that explore and explode conventional wisdom, while also providing a necessary bridge between experiences. These essays respond, with eloquence and incisiveness, to the question: How do we reckon with the trauma that continues to this day, and imagine a way out?

About Author(s)

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is the author, most recently, of The Freezer Door, a New York Times Editors’ Choice, one of Oprah Magazine’s Best LGBTQ Books of 2020, and a finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award. Her previous nonfiction title, The End of San Francisco, won a Lambda Literary Award, and her novel Sketchtasy was one of NPR’s Best Books of 2018. Sycamore is the author of two nonfiction titles and three novels, as well as the editor of five previous non-fiction anthologies, including Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform, an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book.

Berend McKenzie is an award-winning freelance playwright, writer, actor, and producer. His writing credits include Bloodbath at St. Paul’sFashion PoliceMeet the Munts, and Jonesin’, as well as his two full-length plays, Get Off the Cross, Mary and the critically acclaimed children’s play NGGRFG.

Miranda Recht lives and writes in an RV, somewhere. Her work on the AIDS crisis has appeared in Saints+Sinners, vol. 15 (Bold Strokes, 2018) and Day without Art (Pandemonium Press, 2019).

Ryan Conrad is a queer activist, artist, and educator living in the Ottawa Valley. His essay in Between Certain Death and a Possible Future is about growing up in small-town New England. You can learn more about his work online at faggotz.org.