KEEP SINGING: Two Mothers, Two Sons, and Their Fight Against Jesse Helms

Patsy Clarke, Author, Eloise Vaughn, Joint Author, Nicole Brodeur, With KEEP SINGING: Two Mothers, Two Sons, and Their Fight Agains $13.95 (178p) ISBN 978-1-55583-572-9

"As for Mark, I wish he had not played Russian roulette with his sexual activity," declared Sen. Jesse Helms to Patsy Clarke, a long-time friend and political supporter, after she wrote him about her son's death from AIDS. Her world and political sensibilities shaken, Clarke, along with her new friend Eloise Vaughn, who had also lost a son named Mark to AIDS, formed Mothers Against Jesse in Congress (MAJIC), a national group of women dedicated to both raising awareness about AIDS and removing Helms from office. MAJIC quickly garnered writeups in People and the New York Times, and Clarke and Vaughn were invited to speak at the 1996 Democratic National Convention. Written (in conjunction with Nicole Brodeur, metro columnist for the Seattle Times) in plain, honest prose, the story is not so much about AIDS, or even politics, but about how two similar yet different women—Clarke, a religious conservative Republican, and Vaughn, a religious Southern Democrat—grow, as individuals and as a united team, questioning their past beliefs and prejudices and engaging with the world in a new and powerful way. There are shocking moments of pain—as when the local funeral home refuses to take Clarke's son's body, telling her, "[T]his funeral home doesn't handle deaths by AIDS"—but also moments of quiet insight, as when Clarke, taking the campaign to a gay bar, realizes that her son would have felt more comfortable there than at home. While occasionally edging toward the teary, Clarke and Vaughn's story is a powerful lesson in how personal experience can be the root of political change. (May)

Reviewed on: 02/19/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
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