One of our recommended books is After Francesco by Brian Malloy

AFTER FRANCESCO


Set in New York City and Minneapolis at the peak of the AIDS crisis, After Francesco is both a tribute to a generation lost to the pandemic and a universally powerful exploration of heartbreak, recovery, and the ways in which love can defy grief…

The year is 1988 and 28-year-old Kevin Doyle is bone-tired of attending funerals. It’s been two years since his partner Francesco died from AIDS, an epidemic ravaging New York City and going largely ignored by the government, leaving those effected to suffer in silence, feeling unjustifiable shame and guilt on top of their loss.

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Set in New York City and Minneapolis at the peak of the AIDS crisis, After Francesco is both a tribute to a generation lost to the pandemic and a universally powerful exploration of heartbreak, recovery, and the ways in which love can defy grief…

The year is 1988 and 28-year-old Kevin Doyle is bone-tired of attending funerals. It’s been two years since his partner Francesco died from AIDS, an epidemic ravaging New York City and going largely ignored by the government, leaving those effected to suffer in silence, feeling unjustifiable shame and guilt on top of their loss.

Some people might insist that Francesco and the other friends he’s lost to the disease are in a better place, but Kevin definitely isn’t. Half-alive, he spends his days at a mind-numbing job and nights with the ghost of Francesco, drunk and drowning in memories of a man who was too young to die.

When Kevin hits an all-time low, he realizes it’s time to move back home to Minnesota and figure out how to start living again—without Francesco. With the help of a surviving partners support group and friends both old and new, Kevin slowly starts to do just that. But an unthinkable family betrayal, and the news that his best friend is fighting for his life in New York, will force a reckoning and a defining choice.

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  • John Scognamiglio Books
  • Hardcover
  • May 2021
  • 320 Pages
  • 9781496733511

Buy the Book

$26.00

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About Brian Malloy

Brian Malloy is an award-winning author and activist. The recipient of ALA’s Alex Award and the Minnesota Book Award, his novels also have been shortlisted for The Violet Quill Award and the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT fiction. An early employee of the Minnesota AIDS Project, Malloy helped organize the state’s first AIDS Walk in 1988 and has remained an engaged member of the community. He received his MFA from the University of Minnesota and currently teaches creative writing.

Author Website

Praise

“Furious, funny, and beautiful, After Francesco immerses the reader in the crisis of the AIDS epidemic in 1980s New York. Brian Malloy has created a cast of characters so memorable — so vividly witty and aggrieved and brave and bewildered — you’ll never want to put this novel down.” – Julie Schumacher, author of Dear Committee Members and The Shakespeare Requirement, and winner of Thurber Prize for American Humor

“Kevin Doyle is a wonderfully complex character, a butch knot of muscles, scar tissue, and survivor’s guilt. Brian Malloy surrounds him with a lively mix of friends and family who often understand Kevin better than he understands himself. We can’t help feeling worried for him. This novel is fresh, well-observed, often funny, sometimes angry, and always real. I can’t think of another novel about the AIDS years that captures that difficult, messy, intense age more accurately or movingly.” – Christopher Bram, author of Father of Frankenstein (made into the film Gods and Monsters), Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America, and Lives of the Circus Animals

“This is a character I trust completely as a reader, a character who accesses sharp gallows humor as readily as tears, a character both insecure and brave, a character who effortlessly evokes the 1980s East Village he loves but despises. This book centers around a convincing love story, something uncommon enough, but more than that it’s a book about the strength of friendships that are forged in the face of so many enemies and threats. Honest, sarcastic, bighearted–you’ll wish it didn’t have to end.” – John Brandon, author of Arkansas, Citrus County, and A Million Heavens, and the short story collection, Further Joy

Discussion Questions

1. After Francesco opens with a quote from Vito Russo, a gay film historian and author who died of AIDS in 1990. What meaning do you take from Russo’s statement that AIDS is “like living through a war which is happening only for those people who happen to be in the trenches”?

2. Have you experienced the death of one or more people that you loved deeply? How did the immediate impact of their loss feel different from the longer-term impact?

3. Many of the events depicted in After Francesco are real. Were you familiar with ACT UP’s actions at the F.D.A and Trump Tower, the first Minnesota AIDS Walk, or the Tompkins Square Park riot? Did you prefer ACT UP’s civil disobedience or the AIDS Walk in terms of how best to address the AIDS crisis?

4. Francesco’s sister-in-law defends her fabricated memoir by claiming it’s doing good by raising AIDS awareness and changing hearts and minds. Do you agree? Why do you think she wrote the book?

5. What role does religion play in After Francesco? Do Aunt Nora, Father Michael, and Kevin share any common ground when it comes to faith?

6. In 2018, New York Times writer Kurt Soller addressed the newspaper’s AIDS coverage: “Information about the spread of illness was often scant, judgmental or distressingly vague… often buried in the back of the newspaper, far from national news stories that were deemed important enough for the front page.” Did the media’s failure to cover the crisis contribute to the spread of HIV?

7. There are two depictions of assisted dying (also called assisted suicide) in After Francesco. Assisted dying is now legal and regulated in Oregon and Washington. Should assisted dying be expanded to the rest of the country? Why or why not?

8. Kevin comes to think of his grief as a selfish kind of grief, one that he had to stop hoarding like food during a blight. Did you find his grief selfish? Why or why not?