Back in January I read the Kergan Edwards-Stout novel, Songs for the New Depression and I reviewed it for this blog on January, 23rd. If you’ve read my accounting of that story, you know that I struggled with parts of the book because of the personal “character” of Kergan’s lead character, Gabe. What brought this novel back to mind though was that it’s first section, which is actually the terminus of Gabe’s life, was the story of a man who had redeemed himself and become a better human being only to succumb to AIDS.
In talking with someone a few weeks ago about the book, I was told I should probably read the memoir, Geography Of The Heart by Fenton Johnson about his life with his partner Larry Rose before Larry was taken by AIDS by in 1990. My friend making the recommendation assured me that if I was touched by the person Gabe became in a novel, I’d be deeply affected by the story of both of these men and of Rose in particular. He was right, I was.
Geography of the Heart was written in 1997. Yes, I’m putting us all in the way back machine today, but trust me on this one. As an aside, Johnson has since gone on to write another memoir more personal to him, about his own spirtual journey, Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey, published in 2004 but we’ll save a review of that for another day.
In “Geography”, Johnson describes life growing up as one of 9 children born to a Kentucky whisky maker, and being a closeted gay and of Rose who grew up the son of German immigrant Jews who fled Germany after surviving the Holocaust. He details their just over 3 years together and, with much feeling, tells us how Rose, even as he was dying taught him how to love.
Now, I know I didn’t go deep into the book…I won’t. It’s a memoir and it’s Fenton Johnson’s story to tell. Walk with him as he tells it one more time.