Like A Love Story by Abdi Nazemian is a beautiful and brutal love letter to what it meant to be a gay teen in the 1980s. The book tells passionately the ecstasy of first love, the discovery of one’s own identity, the fear of illness, and the rage and activism in the face of systemic injustice and indifference. The story was addictive, heartbreaking, and full of hope all at once.
But what is Like a Love Stoy, exactly?
It starts with Reza. Reza is an Iranian immigrant from Toronto by way of Tehran. He and his mother move to New York to settle in with their new stepfamily. Along with all these changes, he knows that he’s gay and he struggles against it. It’s 19899 and all he can see in his future is informed by images of sickness and death brought on by the AIDs crisis in the news. He fears death and is sure that being true to himself will kill him.
Upon entering his new school he befriends Judy, an aspiring fashion designer. When she meets Reza, she’s head over heels for him. Art is Judy’s best friend and the only openly gay person in the school. Reza is both entranced and fearful of his feelings towards him.
Both Judy and Art are involved in the local ACT UP organization headed by Judy’s uncle, Stephan. They both look up to him and anxious of the remaining time they have with him since he’s slowly succumbing to AIDs.
There are a lot of layers in this book. The narrative itself alternates between Reza’s, Judy’s and Art’s point of view. There’s an intimacy to their experience conveyed through the prose. This makes certain points in the narrative visceral and uncomfortable. You feel keenly the emotions of each of these characters and I would argue that that’s where the beating heart of this story rests. The rawness I often felt sat with me in a very good way.
With that said, it’s an admittingly heavy read. Dark parts of recent history are discussed and shown in all their ugliness. Not just AIDs itself but the indifference shown by the public and the powers that be. The characters in one way or another confront this ugliness but even here, there are signs of cautious hope. It’s a history that needs to be seen. Not just the disease itself but the struggle to bring awareness. It shined a light on an organization that I was only aware of vaguely and has inspired me to look deeper into the history.
I personally think this is a must-read not just for people who’d like a thoughtful teen romance but readers looking for an inspiring story about identity and a history lesson in LGBTQA activism. It’s for these reasons and more that I loved this book.
Where You Can Find the Book
Or your local library! Hey, that’s where I found my copy 🙂