Geography Of The Heart / Fenton Johnson

This memoir by Fenton Johnson chronicles his three year relationship with his lover, Larry Rose. It is a relationship that slowly deepens over time despite the fact that Rose was already HIV positive when the two men first met. The year was 1987, and at that time a diagnosis of HIV was a likely death sentence. In this poignant memoir, the author interweaves the story of his upbringing as the youngest of nine children in Kentucky, and that of Rose, the only child of German Jews who had survived the Holocaust. Johnson explores his initial feeling of doubt about the pairing, and how he resisted fully committing himself to the relationship. But as the two of them became closer, and Rose’s health began to deteriorate, the author slowly begins to learn of the transformational power of love. Even though he at first feared he would be unable to carry out his role as caregiver, in the end he felt honored to nurse his partner through his final days. There are numerous memoirs that chronicle the personal impact of the AIDS epidemic. What makes this one special is Johnson’s talent as a writer—he is a master of the craft. He has created a lyrical love story, using humor and brutal honesty, to put a human face to being Gay in America at a time when many people felt that AIDS was a punishment for such relationships. I could have done without the final chapter where the author tries to sum up the impact that love had on his life. It is unnecessary because the story he so aptly presented had already done that job for him.

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