Has anyone been watching Russell T Davies’ gritty 1980s drama It’s a Sin? Set in the 1980s, the five part show follows one group of friends through the 1980s and the unfolding of the AIDS pandemic that shook an entire community to its core.
With the gay sexual revolution came a mysterious illness that seemingly struck down gay men only, and in this touching and beautiful story, you see how entire communities were affected by this new and emerging virus and the stigma and shame that came from being ill.
If you haven’t seen the series, it’s free in the UK on 4OD, or available on Amazon Prime on pay per view. If you have seen it and you loved it as much as we did, here are ten books to read next.
House of Impossible Beauties – Joseph Cassara
It’s 1980 in New York City, and nowhere is the city’s glamour and energy better reflected than in the burgeoning Harlem ball scene, where seventeen-year-old Angel first comes into her own. Burned by her traumatic past, Angel is new to the drag world, new to ball culture, and has a yearning inside of her to help create family for those without. When she falls in love with Hector, a beautiful young man who dreams of becoming a professional dancer, the two decide to form the House of Xtravaganza, the first-ever all-Latino house in the Harlem ball circuit. But when Hector dies of AIDS-related complications, Angel must bear the responsibility of tending to their house alone.
Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin
For almost four decades Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City has blazed its own trail through popular culture—from a groundbreaking newspaper serial to a classic novel, to a television event that entranced millions around the world. The first of nine novels about the denizens of the mythic apartment house at 28 Barbary Lane, Tales is both a sparkling comedy of manners and an indelible portrait of an era that changed forever the way we live.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home – Carol Rifka Brunt
1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.
Tin Man – Sarah Winman
Ellis and Michael are twelve-year-old boys when they first become friends, and for a long time it is just the two of them, cycling the streets of Oxford, teaching themselves how to swim, discovering poetry, and dodging the fists of overbearing fathers. And then one day this closest of friendships grows into something more.
People in Trouble – Sarah Schulman
New York, late 80s. The AIDS crisis has taken hold and the world is on the brink of imploding. Ronald Horne, an entitled property tycoon, lords over the city. Kate, a successful artist, lives in Manhattan with Peter, her husband and fellow creative. She’s having an affair with Molly, a younger gay woman who, when she’s not working a dead-end job, is caring for sick friends.
Full Disclosure – Camryn Garrett
Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly. While this is a contemporary novel, we included it because life, and living with HIV has changed so much, but it’s a timeley reminder that stigma still remains.
The Great Believers – Rebecca Makkai
In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister.
Christadora – Tim Murphy
In this epic, ambitious, and deeply poignant novel, Tim Murphy follows a diverse group of people whose fates intertwine in an iconic building in Manhattan’s East Village, the Christodora. Moving kaleidoscopically from the Tompkins Square Riots and the activism of the 1980s to a future New York City of the 2020s where subzero winters are a thing of the past, Christodora recounts the heartbreak wrought by AIDS, portrays the allure and destructive power of hard drugs, and brings to life a bohemian Lower Manhattan of artists and idealists.