Stitching a Revolution: The Making of an Activist

ISBN 10: 0062516426 / ISBN 13: 9780062516428
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From the frontlines of one of the greatest human struggles of our time comes this powerful and moving tale. Both an important cultural history of the AIDS crisis and an intimate personal memoir, Stitching a Revolution is the story of a man who, besieged by discrimination, death, and despair, found the courage and strength of spirit to conceive and create a unique healing vision-the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Against the turbulent backdrop of politics and sexual liberation in San Francisco during the seventies, Jones recounts his coming-of-age alongside friend and mentor Harvey Milk -- and, later, Milk's assassination and the ensuing riots that threatened to tear down all they had accomplished. But Jones's political aspirations were put on hold after the emergence of an insidious, unexplainable "gay cancer" that would soon become known throughout the world as AIDS. Demoralized by the tide of death and despair sweeping his community, brutally assaulted by gay-bashing thugs, and faced with the specter of his own positive diagnosis, Jones sought a way to restore hope to a world falling apart beneath his feet.

What started out as a simple panel of fabric stitched for his best friend now covers a space larger than twenty-five football fields and contains over eighty thousand names. The Quilt has affected the lives of many people, bridging racial, sexual, and religious barriers to unite millions in the fight against AIDS.

Stitching a Revolution is a compelling, dramatic tale with a cast of memorable characters from all walks of life. At times uplifting, at times heartwrenching, this inspiring story reveals what it means to be human and how the power of love conquers all -- even death.

Review: There can be few American stories more inspiring than that of the tremendous 43,000-panel AIDS quilt, a national memorial as powerfully symbolic as the Vietnam War Memorial--but made from a material as fragile and ephemeral as human life. The quilt is predicated on a simple concept: putting names to those who have died of AIDS humanizes the statistics and forces those who visit the quilt to look beyond the stigmatized categories of gayness and contagious disease that cling to the popular image of AIDS. Cleve Jones stitched the first panel in his backyard in February 1987 as a memorial to his best friend, Marvin. He has been speaking in public about the quilt for many years now, and his narrative in Stitching a Revolution is smooth and engaging. Perhaps his best quality as a storyteller is his generous recognition of others, shown in his memory of Rosa Parks in her Sunday hat: "When she handed me the quilts she'd made for her neighbors," Jones recalls, "she wanted to relish only their lives, not the divisions--just memorialize her friends and what they'd meant to her. You're doing a wonderful thing, young man, she'd said. There were no tears in her eyes, just a message for me to continue. Did my fatigue show? Did she see that the death threats and potshots had taken their toll? Dismiss them, she seemed to say, and grow old. A challenge. I brighten and feel combative." --Regina Marler

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