Stitching a Revolution: The Making of an Activist

Cleve Jones, Author, Jeff Dawson, With
Cleve Jones, Author, Jeff Dawson, With HarperCollins Publishers $26 (285p) ISBN 978-0-06-251641-1
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-06-251642-8
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The AIDS Memorial Quilt--42,016 interlocking panels, each celebrating the life of an individual who has died of AIDS-related causes--is one of the marvels of contemporary political organizing and art. Jones, who conceived of the quilt and formed the Names Project, which curates it, has written a memoir of his life as a gay rights and AIDS activist that attempts to place the meaning of the quilt within both a personal and a social history. Born in 1954 to a pair of liberal Indiana college professors, Jones left home and his less-than-accepting parents at 18, after he came out. Cutting his political teeth working for openly gay Supervisor Harvey Milk in San Francisco, Jones became a noted community leader after Milk's assassination in 1978. When AIDS hit three years later, Jones, who was working as a legislative aide on health concerns, became involved with local AIDS projects and in 1984 was inspired to begin developing the quilt. Although it is filled with dates and names, Jones's memoir is oddly vague about political or personal specifics. He claims, for example, that Harvey Milk's politics were not based in ""any kind of political or economic philosophy"" but were just ""about individuals""; he also describes his Latino lover's depression about having AIDS as ""Aztec fatalism."" So although Jones touches on many of the key moments of recent gay and lesbian history, and while his vision for the quilt has been vital in personalizing the AIDS epidemic for many nongay U.S. citizens, his memoir lacks the narrative drive and insight to make it an important social or personal document. Agent, Jed Mattes. Author tour. (Apr.)
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