Tag Archives: heroin

Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days Free for World AIDS Day

Shortly after my book Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days was published, I started a little tradition of making the Kindle/ebook version of it free for a few days starting on December 1st, in commemoration of World AIDS Day.

So have at it with my compliments, and feel free to share this post with people you know.

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-AIDS-Wildfire-ebook/dp/B009TV4CE6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1402448615&sr=1-1&keywords=Bevilaqua

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The Annual Holding Breath World AIDS Day Free Book Promotion

I’ve decided to make a tradition that I actually care about, now that Thanksgiving is over (as far as holidays are concerned, Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day are the only ones I really love; don’t even get me started on how I feel about Columbus Day).  Last year, shortly after I published Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, I realized that it would be appropriate to give free Kindle versions of the book away for World AIDS Day (December 1st).

This year, the book will be free starting tomorrow (11/29/13), and the offer will be good through Sunday, which will be World AIDS Day.  After that, I won’t be giving it away again until next year.

So far, the book has a 4.6 out of 5 star rating from 21 reviews on Amazon.com (and another 5-star review on Amazon U.K.).  As usual, if you download the book (or buy the print version) and read it and feel like leaving a review, I’d really appreciate it.  Every one helps, and they’re fun to read (except for that one 2-star one…).

Here ya go (and then I’m done with the book giveaways!):

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-Wildfire-ebook/dp/B009TV4CE6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1377225007&sr=1-1&keywords=holding+breath+bevilaqua

A Birthday, an Anniversary, and a Book Sale

Today would be David’s (the man about whom I wrote Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days) 66th birthday.  Although his life was very often something close to hell–perhaps something that he sometimes wished he’d never been born into (I don’t know that for certain, of course; he always struck me as remarkably optimistic, in spite of things)–I feel that his birth is also something that I should always celebrate in some way.  David changed the course of my life for the better, and permanently.  I sometimes wonder what I would have been like if I’d never met him; it’s not a pretty thought.

The following is an excerpt from the book about his birthday in 1989, six months before he passed on, and my realization a year later that it was approaching again, and that he was gone:

“I found an entry from 16 October 1989 that mentions his birthday.  Part of it got wet at some point and the ink ran, so some of it is illegible, but what I can put together of it says:

In six days it’ll be David’s birthday…short year ago that (I took him out) for lunch and he told me…about his life.  (We were supposed to) go see (the building’s owner) about his apartment, but it was pouring rain and (we didn’t think he should) stay out in it so I bought him an umbrella and he walked me to the PATH station.  I kissed him on the cheek and wished him happy birthday and he looked surprised, as I guess he should have been.  Then I went home and he went back up to the Marion Hotel.

Autumn’s got me thinking about him, too.  And the fact that I actually did get TB from him.  It’s stupid, but I almost like the idea that I caught something from him.  Any bond…

Today is also the first anniversary of Holding Breath‘s publication (no coincidence there), so this seems like a good time to put the Kindle version of the book on sale for a few days.  So, from today (21 October 2013) through Wednesday the 23rd, the price will be reduced from $3.99 to .99.  Once again, here’s the link to the book’s Amazon page (where you can also read the reviews):

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-Wildfire-ebook/dp/B009TV4CE6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1377225007&sr=1-1&keywords=holding+breath+bevilaqua

Here’s a description of the book:

In 1988, recently out of a graduate Creative Writing program in New York City, Nancy Bevilaqua was an aspiring poet in need of a job. She answered a newspaper ad seeking caseworkers for people with AIDS, and, much to her surprise, got the job. She shouldn’t have been surprised; in 1988 AIDS was an epidemic completely out of anyone’s control beyond some toxic and ineffective treatments, and fear and misunderstanding of the disease were rampant. Very few people wanted to be in contact with people who’d been infected with HIV.

A year later, a 41-year-old heroin addict named David was assigned to her as a client. Something about him drew her to him, and in very little time the boundary between “client” and “caseworker” dissolved, and she fell in love with him. For the next eight months she lived with him in his Lower East Side apartment, caring for him and waiting with him for the inevitable end.

Before succumbing to the disease, David asked Nancy to write a book about him. Twenty-two years later, after going through an unexpected and very painful period of something she learned was called “disenfranchised grief”, she finally published Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, which is a loving account of her eight months with David, and the grief she’d had to hide for so long.

Free Kindle Edition of Holding Breath, 9/13-9/15/2013

The Kindle version of Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days will be FREE starting at about midnight Pacific Time tonight, until midnight on Sunday, 9/15.  At the moment, the book has a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars from twenty customer reviews on Amazon; if you do read it, additional (honest) reviews are more than welcome!  The regular price for the ebook version is $3.99.

Yes, Holding Breath is a “book about AIDS”, but beyond that it’s a love story, as well as an evocative portrait of New York City in the late 1980’s.  As one reviewer put it, it’s “a memoir of the last days of the 1980’s that is tender, desperate, loving, searching, and quietly profound. Holding Breath is the best of what indie published books can be. It is raw, natural and unabashedly lyrical.”

I’ll be posting a reminder of the promotion here in the morning, but in the meantime here’s the book’s Amazon link, if you’d like to take a look and read more reviews:

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-Wildfire-ebook/dp/B009TV4CE6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1377225007&sr=1-1&keywords=holding+breath+bevilaqua

Understood

Early on in the book, I write about one of my first clients, Margaret–“a frail crack addict who really–like so many of the others–wanted to be liked.”  She was a tiny, sweet, energetic little thing who was really happy and excited to be getting a room in a crummy SRO hotel, and to be going out shopping with me to get a few things to make it more comfortable.  She passed away shortly afterwards.

That part about “wanting to be liked”–wanting to be understood as being someone who was more than the stereotypical image that many of us have of being a “crackhead,” or a “drug addict”, or a “homeless person”–is an important part of the book.  It was absolutely true of David, who, as far as I can tell, had very rarely in his life had a sense of being understood beyond those and a few other labels (one of the last of them, of course, being “junkie with AIDS”).

Almost without exception, the people I worked with (David included, obviously) always seemed very happy when they were given a chance to talk about their lives outside of those labels, their childhoods, their interests, their dreams…anything, really.  Something in them seemed to change when they realized that someone actually wanted to hear their stories, or when someone looked them in the eye, shook their hands, and asked them about themselves beyond the necessities of the paperwork.

Even now, when my son gives some money to a homeless person on the street, I tell him to look him or her in the eye and, at the very least, say a few words–let him or her know that he actually SEES them.

That’s why the Animals’ “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” is on the playlist for Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days.  Here’s the link to the song (ignore the suits! 🙂 ):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2FT4FprxDg

(Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days is available at:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009TV4CE6

Another Song from the Playlist: “Hurt” (Johnny Cash Version)

I’d never heard this song–either the original version by Nine Inch Nails or this cover by Johnny Cash–until the latter somehow accidentally showed up on my iPod one day while I was going through some of the worst of my delayed grief, seventeen years after David passed away as a result of AIDS.  Like “Streets of Philadelphia,” it knocked the breath out of me the first time I heard it (and often still does).  I don’t know everything that was going through David’s mind during the last eight months of his life, but, like the lyrics of “Streets of Philadelphia,” the lyrics of “Hurt” (and the way Cash sings them, and the video itself) seem very likely to be the kinds of thoughts that a man–an almost lifelong heroin addict–who knows that he is dying might have.

Still, I will never see David’s life as an “empire of dirt”; I will always believe that it was worth much more than he had, I think, come to believe it was.  As I write in Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, “Like any life, it mattered.”  That’s actually kind of the point of the book.

The song is here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmVAWKfJ4Go

(Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days is available at:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009TV4CE6.)

Jesus, and Loving a Heroin Addict With AIDS

I won’t be posting many (if any) more excerpts from Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days here, for the all-too-obvious reason that I’d like people to buy the book.  But I did want to post this excerpt:

Except for when I was a child growing up in a very Catholic family, I’ve never been a ‘religious’ person in the traditional sense…

Recently, however, I’ve become a big fan of Jesus—not Jesus the Son of God, not Jesus, product of the Virgin Birth, not the bloodied caricature in gaudy prints on people’s walls, and certainly not the holy battering-ram used by those who chatter on about their personal relationships with him while at the same time using his image to justify the self-righteous, intolerant, and breathtakingly cruel behavior that he tried so hard to get people to change—but Jesus the man, the teacher.

Growing up, in church and Sunday school and elsewhere, I’d heard phrases like ‘God is love,’ and ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’, and ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged,’ and ‘Blessed are the merciful,’ so often, and from so many hypocrites, that the words, and the things that Jesus actually tried to teach, became nothing more than empty slogans that I no longer even heard.

But I’ve begun to hear them again, and to understand what Jesus, the man, so desperately and ultimately in such futility tried to teach.  A short time ago I was having a discussion with a man who had made a comment to the effect that the homeless should just help themselves.  Thinking of David, and of all the other people I’d met and worked with over the years who had found themselves desperate and with nothing left that would be considered valuable in this world, I tried to tell the man that, once someone reaches that state of having nothing, it becomes almost impossible for him to help himself.  Those people—the despised, the sick, the ones driven by circumstances to desperate acts—are the ones with whom Jesus would have wanted to spend his time, and are the ones to whom he felt God’s love should be channeled through those who have the means to do so.  It’s those who have the advantages of wealth, education, health, and decent childhoods in which love was freely given, and who nevertheless refuse to help those without those advantages and think of them as inferior and unworthy, whom Jesus would, perhaps, despise, if he ever despised anyone.

People have sometimes told me that I had “compassion” for David.  I tell them that compassion had nothing to do with it—I loved him, loved spending time with him, couldn’t imagine how I could go on living my life once he was gone…

…Yet perhaps it was the fact that, by some twist of fate or destiny, he found someone who loved him unconditionally, loved him as he should have been loved from the beginning, when he had reached that point of having nothing, that helped give him what he needed to find his better self.  He must have known that it was there, as I always did, but maybe if he had been left alone and with nothing in those last few months he would not have been able to reach it in time.

Jesus, the man, the teacher, would have loved David, and he would have loved that I loved David too.  That, in itself, is enough to make me a fan.”

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