Memoir includes history lesson

Published: February 16 2014 | 7:00 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:43 am in

Most memoirs are simply that: a story of a person’s life.

Iowa native Sean Strub’s memoir “Body Count: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS, and Survival,” does more than just tell his exemplary personal history. It also details the history of the AIDS epidemic in the United States and the brave men and women who led the movement for education and equality.

Born and raised in Iowa, Strub became enamored with politics at a young age, landing a page position in the Iowa State Senate and in 1976, when he was 17, a coveted position in the U.S. Congress operating elevator number one. While his youthful exploits are charmingly explored in the opening sections of the book (including some great passages about the freedoms pages had to explore the chambers), this also was a time of great anxiety for Strub. As a young, gay man in the ’70s, “coming out wasn’t an option I even considered.”

When he picked up a copy of the Washington Blade, the weekly gay newspaper, and saw the paper “used real names and photographs of openly gay and lesbian people ... I wondered if their parents were dead.”

Over the years, though, Strub’s life changed dramatically. He moved to New York where he felt free to express his sexuality openly for the first time. It is here where he falls in love, becomes an activist, founds POZ, “a general interest magazine reflecting the way [HIV+ people] lived” and battles AIDS himself.

But perhaps what makes “Body Count” so brilliant is the structure and pacing. Readers are privy to the honest, emotional story of Strub’s life while at the same time given wonderful insight into an important — and oft forgotten — chapter in United States history: the AIDS epidemic.

Strub weaves pivotal moments in gay and AIDS activism movement into his personal story, giving readers a full sense of the consequences and bias Strub faced on a daily basis, making this a heartfelt — and historically important — book.

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