“A deeply moving, vivid, funny, tender, sexy, rough-around-the-edges memory novel of early-nineties San Francisco when AIDS was claiming lives but also when sexual, cultural, and political walls were falling and everything seemed possible. This is a rare account of that time and place from a straight man who opened his mind and heart to everyone around him—men and women, cis and trans, gay and straight, sick and healthy—and came away changed.”
~ Tim Murphy, author of Christodora and Correspondents
June marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, which gave birth to the gay rights movement. Today, we encourage our readers to acknowledge the more than 700,000 people who have died of aids—a number that peaked in the mid 1990s, with a look at the novel Illuminations on Market Street. In this book, Benjamin Heim Shepard provides a personal look at the devastation caused by the disease through the eyes of the protagonist, Cab, a young college grad who works nights in an AIDS housing program.
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A novel by Professor Benjamin Heim Shepard (New York City College of Technology) takes readers back to that era when the epidemic raged and the death toll was rising. Set mainly in San Francisco in the early 1990s, Illuminations on Market Street tells the story of Cab, a recent college grad who works nights in an AIDS housing program. He’s a front-line witness to the devastation of the disease, but he’s also struggling with family dramas and complicated relationships while figuring out his own identity and path. The book vividly evokes the era’s heady mix of sex and drugs, punk rock and disco, and politics and pop culture, from ACT UPprotests to 90210 on TV. Shepard calls it a “bildungsroman” about “AIDS caregiving, romance, and letting go.”
Walking the Toaster
I had not been in San Francisco for over a year. But the city felt different than my previous time there. Walking up Market Street, I could not place it. Hyde and Leavenworth still felt down and out, a few homeless people wandering about, the smell of pot in the air, graffiti on the walls. I hurried past Van Ness, where I had worked. Debris was still strewn about, but it felt strange. I didn’t want to go back to the building, did not want to be seen or see anyone. I hurried past. I walked past an old café where I used to write, past Guerrero and Church where my friends and I drank and played pool after evening shifts at 1994 Market Street, the AIDS housing program where I’d spent those post-college years when AIDS deaths spiked and treatment eluded science.