cover image My Government Means to Kill Me

My Government Means to Kill Me

Rasheed Newson. Flatiron, $27.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-83352-5

TV writer and producer Newson debuts with a crisp fictitious memoir of a gay Black man’s coming-of-age in mid-1980s New York City. Earl “Trey” Singleton III spurns his wealthy Indianapolis family to move to Manhattan at age 17 in 1985. He struggles to find a job or a place to live, and becomes a regular at Mt. Morris, one of the last remaining bathhouses. There, between his frequent sexual encounters, he befriends civil rights leader Bayard Rustin. At Rustin’s urging that Trey become politically involved, Trey wins a Pyrrhic victory against his negligent landlord, Fred Trump. Trey then begins volunteering at an AIDS hospice and joins the direct-action group ACT UP. Later, Trey’s will is tested after he’s arrested at a mostly white protest against the FDA, then hears shocking news about a friend. Though the choice to frame this as a memoir remains a bit curious, as doing so doesn’t add much to the narrative, Newson can turn a sharp phrase (a job loss teaches Trey that “affection never outlasted need”), and his footnotes to historic figures provide context and nuance (“A list of his undeniable accomplishments could only be rivaled in length by a list of the names of other LGBTQ+ activists with whom he clashed, offended, and rebuked,” he writes of Larry Kramer). It adds up to an eloquent story of the struggle for gay liberation. (Aug.)