I had been focused on the date June 19, 2012. The date my novel, THE MARRYING KIND would be available in stores and from the major online sellers. I hadn’t realized that my book would be for sale directly from Bold Strokes Books. And on an earlier date.
Today, June 11th.
The date is not without significance for me. It is the anniversary of the death of my older brother, Gene. He died of AIDS on June 11, 1996. I stared at my page on the Bold Strokes Books website and my eyes filled with tears. But even before the tears hit my cheeks I was laughing. No matter what date my book was released I would think about my brother—that was certain. But falling on this particular day, I imagine I’ll think of little else.
This is so my brother.
I was always the quiet and shy one. My brother was loud and showy and enjoyed being the center of attention. He was Auntie Mame and I was Patrick Dennis. When I first moved to New York—years after he did—he had me over for dinner every Sunday. He would have a rotating cast of fascinating characters but I was always the constant. The timid baby brother who mostly observed while the more gregarious guests smoked and entertained me with tales of their exploits.
I loved my brother but he was very guarded. I didn’t know many of his secrets. He was HIV positive for nearly 14 years before he told me. Actually my mother told me on the phone and through tears: “When your brother has dinner with you tonight he’s going to tell you he has AIDS. Act surprised,” she added, like she’d just spilled the beans on the details of a birthday party.
And that is mostly how it was with my brother. I loved him. He loved me. And there was so much I didn’t know about him.
THE MARRYING KIND was actually due to come out two years ago by another publisher. That did not occur because the publisher went out of business before releasing my novel. Still I spent a lot of 2010 thinking about my book and its possible impact on marriage equality. I also spent a lot of time wondering if my brother would be proud of me. I wasn’t sure because I had never thought of Gene as a very political person. He was funny and sarcastic and he threw a great party. But he didn’t fight for his rights.
Around the time my book should have come out but did not, I opened up Time Out magazine and was leafing through to find a film to take my mind off the fact that my book was not coming out! But I turned the pages too quickly and sailed by FILM and landed on GAY & LESBIAN.
There was a feature story on the history of the Gay & Lesbian Center. Accompanying the article was a photo Of Harvey Fierstein and three unidentified volunteers working on the AIDS Memorial Quilt. I actually wasn’t sure at first. But there he was. My brother seated to the left of Harvey. My brother, it turned out, was an activist. That was a great gift to learn all those years later. I imagined then that he would be proud of me and of the message of THE MARRYING KIND.
And I’m very proud of him—of the man he was. I don’t know how he managed to get my book released on June 11th. But I’m so honored that he did.
Oh, and Gene, since you seem to have a lot of clout: bestseller list?