Review: ‘War Diaries’ edited by Tisa Bryant and Ernest Hardy
by Sassafras Lowrey
What War Diaries (AIDS Project Los Angeles & the Global Forum on MSM and HIV), edited by Tisa Bryant and Ernest Hardy, lacks in polish it more than makes up for with an impacted and blunt beauty. This new anthology published by AIDS Project Los Angeles & the Global Forum on MSM and HIV offers refreshingly raw and poignant commentary on the AIDS epidemic and its particular and ongoing impact on black LGBTQ communities. Bringing together short stories, poetry and photography, War Diaries offers an in your face account of the impact of HIV/AIDS from infected and affected community members.
In talking about and describing “the war” editors Bryant and Hardy say, “We are beaten, raped, disowned and slaughtered by people we love and whom we thought loved us. We are beaten, raped, slaughtered and just plain old fucked with by people who don’t know us at all. The fact that this is not news to us does not make it less painful for us. We are disproportionately poor, disproportionately sick. We are the scapegoats residing in the interstices of race/sexuality/gender/class/religion/revolution, simultaneously the all –purpose boogeyman and invisible.” Bryant and Hardy have done an exquisite job of cultivating a collection of stories that gets to the nuances of oppression, love and survival. The stories that comprise War Diaries are fresh and poignant. They are at once a call to action for those who have and continue to ignore to HIV/AIDS epidemic, memorial for those lost, and a commitment to continue fighting in their memory and for those who are still living.
I was particularly drawn to the profound honesty of each contributor as they spoke about their lives, and communities in ways that I seldom see in anthologies. War Diaries feels like a living, breathing text that unfolds organically with each page turn ricocheting from vivid descriptions of hate crime violence to tender tales of sex and punctuated by photographs and poetry. This is a special collection that fills a void in queer and HIV/AIDS literature alike by putting to page the stories that too often remain silenced even within our communities.