Disasterama!: Adventures in the Queer Underground 1977 to 1997

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Though this book is categorized as a memoir, it is so much more than the story of one man. As Orloff writes in his introduction, it can also be read as “an elegy, apologia, cautionary tale, or social history.” The book ripples out from Orloff’s personal story coming out as queer and joining myriad misfits in the streets of San Francisco. It recalls drag shows, performance art, poverty, youth, and sex. It can be read as a first-hand history of the city’s ever-changing queer club scene, or as a tale of life outside the norm. At the memoir’s center is the slow march of AIDS.

While many recountings of the AIDS crisis graze over the happiness and love that still existed in the community and dwell on the pain, this book chooses to laugh. Disasterama! records the joy and playfulness that queerness was and continues to be despite hardships. Powerfully, the comedy in this book is never overly flippant but almost reverent. Orloff captures the humor in the darkness and eulogizes his friends with determined laughter instead of mourning. Even when the book does have its tender moments, it is adamant in its refusal to reduce his friends to martyrs in a larger political game. He insists on the details and on the individual moments that make up people and make up communities. In this way, he acknowledges the personal as political but urges readers not to forget the day-to-day existence of those personally affected by politics and prejudice. This book is a must-read for memoir lovers, history nerds, punks, misfits, amateur artists, clubbers, and anyone looking to laugh and learn.

Reviewed By:

Author Alvin Orloff
Star Count 4.5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 260 pages
Publisher Three Rooms Press
Publish Date 2019-10-08
ISBN 9781941110829
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue April 2020
Category Special Interest


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