Sarah Schulman

Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993

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New York Times Notable Books of the Year 2021

Twenty years in the making, Sarah Schulman's Let the Record Show is the most comprehensive political history ever assembled of ACT UP and American AIDS activism

In just six years, ACT UP, New York, a broad and unlikely coalition of activists from all races, genders, sexualities, and backgrounds, changed the world. Armed with rancor, desperation, intelligence, and creativity, it took on the AIDS crisis with an indefatigable, ingenious, and multifaceted attack on the corporations, institutions, governments, and individuals who stood in the way of AIDS treatment for all. They stormed the FDA and NIH in Washington, DC, and started needle exchange programs in New York; they took over Grand Central Terminal and fought to change the legal definition of AIDS to include women; they transformed the American insurance industry, weaponized art and advertising to push their agenda, and battled―and beat―The New York Times, the Catholic Church, and the pharmaceutical industry. Their activism, in its complex and intersectional power, transformed the lives of people with AIDS and the bigoted society that had abandoned them.

Based on more than two hundred interviews with ACT UP members and rich with lessons for today’s activists, Let the Record Show is a revelatory exploration―and long-overdue reassessment―of the coalition’s inner workings, conflicts, achievements, and ultimate fracture. Schulman, one of the most revered queer writers and thinkers of her generation, explores the how and the why, examining, with her characteristic rigor and bite, how a group of desperate outcasts changed America forever, and in the process created a livable future for generations of people across the world.

Author: Sarah Schulman 

Paperback  Published 11 October 2022  736 pages

Originally published in hardcover 18 May 2021 

Read and Recommended by Hendri:

"This book narrates a comprehensive history of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP) in New York through activists' personal stories and embodied experiences. Instead of exploring the history in a chronological order, Sarah Schulman brings the highs and lows of ACT-UP activism, together with the activists' political and personal decisions that arose from the evolving situation on the ground." 

"A masterpiece of historical research and intellectual analysis that creates many windows into both a vanished world and the one that emerged from it, the one we live in now." --Alexander Chee

"An in-depth and fully realized account . . . a text that offers younger queer activists a rare study of their own history." --Emma Specter, Vogue

"A masterful work twenty years in the making . . . Schulman holds a unique position to chronicle this critical history and connect it with our own chaotic moment." --Lauren LeBlanc, Observer

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