Alumni Ink: Until My Heart Stops

Jim remembers, "I was a Marshall at the March on Washington in 1993. Behind me is the Washington monument and the AIDS quilt."

He remembers, “I was a Marshall at the March on Washington in 1993. Behind me is the Washington monument and the AIDS quilt.”

Jameson Currier 77C writes passionately about AIDS and its effect on the LGBTQ population. With candid sincerity in each of his 11 books and hundreds of essays, Currier is unafraid to expose his vulnerabilities.

To be a gay man in the latter part of the twentieth century meant coming to grips with a frightening, and often deadly, health reality. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, more commonly known as AIDS, had infiltrated the LGBTQ segment of the population with unprecedented reach. “The analogies that have compared the early years of the AIDS epidemic to trying to survive in a war zone were apt,” says Jameson Currier 77C. “For many gay men, each piece of news that arrived was like another bomb exploding.”

Currier, award-winning writer and founder of Chelsea Station Editions, lived through that difficult time of uncertainty. The New York Times Book Review has said of his work, “Currier is adept at drawing a fine line between the erotic and the tragic, and at telling stories ‘that although personal, are also stories of our community.’” Currier points out, “I’m not a graduate of an academic writing program; I found my voice one word at a time, often by trial and error, and often as self-therapy.”

Released last year, Currier’s book Until My Heart Stops is a breathtaking memoir that assembles a collection of more than 50 works of nonfiction written by the author over four decades, many which deal with the impact of AIDS on both his personal life and his writing. The memoir was a finalist for a Lambda Literary award, recognizing the literary achievements of LGBT books and authors. The title is reflective of a medical diagnosis Currier received: HCM or hypertropic cardiomyopathy, a condition of excessive thickening of the heart muscle for which there is no apparent cause or cure. Within the book, he thinks back to his state of mind in 1985 in Manhattan, when he was first diagnosed. “That had been a summer of fear for me, the year I hadn’t imagined myself living long enough to develop a heart problem because I was too worried about dying from AIDS.”

Until My Heart Stops is a deeply personal memoir that tackles some of society's most difficult issues.

Until My Heart Stops is a deeply personal memoir that tackles some of society’s most difficult issues.

Currier, who is HIV-negative, notes that while treatments have altered the course of HIV and AIDS since the early years of the epidemic, the impact it has had on the gay community remains. “The epidemic isn’t over for any of us who have survived the losses,” he says. “That’s why it’s important to me to keep telling these stories.”

Tackling Difficult Societal Issues – With Compassion

The journey to explore the issues facing the LGBTQ community in recent years has been fraught with challenges and landmark successes since that summer day in 1981 when The New York Times reported a rare cancer that affected gay men. For Currier, sharing truth came “in fiction and non-fiction, poetry and prose, grappling with issues and themes and searching for some sort of understanding to how the plague has shaped our lives.”

His first novel, Where the Rainbow Ends, published in 1998, details the timeline of the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. In a later essay, Currier noted, “There are many reasons why I never stopped writing about AIDS. AIDS summons up the greatest themes in literature, among them sex and death and faith, themes that are universal and prominent in every life.” AIDS and HIV, he writes, “impacted my world. It has made me the person I am today. I write about AIDS because I am still alive.”

2010

At the Kutna Hora “bone” chapel outside of Prague.

Dancing on the Moon, his earlier collection of short fiction, was also groundbreaking. First published in 1993, Currier became “the first American writer to publish a full collection of short stories about AIDS,” the author recalls. While The Village Voice dubbed this work “defiant and elegiac,” for Currier creating the work was a cathartic way of dealing with losses around him.

With candid sincerity in each of his 11 books and hundreds of essays, Currier is unafraid to expose his vulnerabilities. He reflects in his new memoir, “I guess my time is not up either, I think, feeling the swollen colors of twilight now around me. The air is both warm and cold against the sweat of my back. And something in the universe has made me lucky. At this moment, I am happy and sober. This is something I can write about. This feeling. This is something I can try to understand.”

Editor’s Note: In addition to being the founder, publisher, and editor of Chelsea Station Editions, Currier is a senior paralegal for a media company in New York City and an LGBTQ activist in his own right.

–Michelle Valigursky

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