The Writer’s Center welcomes Melanie Brooks for a reading and discussion of her new memoir, A Hard Silence. Melanie will be in conversation with author Aaron Hamburger. Book signing to follow.
Free and open to the public, limited space, registration required below.
Melanie Brooks is the author Writing Hard Stories: Celebrated Memoirists Who Shaped Art from Trauma (Beacon Press, 2017). She teaches creative nonfiction in the MFA program at Bay Path University and professional writing at Northeastern University in Massachusetts. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast writing program and is completing a Certificate in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University. She has had numerous interviews and essays on topics ranging from loss and grief to parenting and aging published in the HuffPost, Psychology Today, Yankee Magazine, The Washington Post, Ms. Magazine, Creative Nonfiction, and other notable publications. She grew up in the Canadian Maritimes, but now lives in New Hampshire with her husband, two children (when they are home from university), and two Labs.
Aaron Hamburger is the author of the story collection The View from Stalin’s Head which was awarded the Rome Prize by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and nominated for a Violet Quill Award. He has also written three novels: Faith for Beginners, nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, Nirvana Is Here, winner of a Bronze Medal from the 2019 Foreword Reviews Indies Book Awards, and Hotel Cuba. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Village Voice, Tin House, Michigan Quarterly Review, Subtropics, Crazyhorse, Boulevard, Poets & Writers, Tablet, O, the Oprah Magazine, and many others. He has also won fellowships from Yaddo, Djerassi, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the Edward F. Albee Foundation. He has taught creative writing at Columbia University, the George Washington University, New York University, Brooklyn College, and the Stonecoast MFA Program.
About the Book
In the mid 1980s, Canada’s worst public health disaster was unfolding. Catastrophic mismanagement of the country’s blood supply allowed contaminated blood to be knowingly distributed nationwide, infecting close to two thousand Canadians with HIV. Among them was Melanie Brooks’s surgeon father who, after receiving a blood transfusion during open-heart surgery in 1985, learned he was HIV positive.
At a time when HIV/AIDS was widely misunderstood and public perception was shaped by fear, prejudice, and homophobia, victims of the disease faced ostracism and persecution. Afraid of this stigma and wanting to protect his family, Melanie’s father decided his illness would be a secret. A secret they’d all have to keep. They did not know that her father would live past that first year, but he did. And for ten years before his death in 1995, from the time she was thirteen until she was twenty-three, Melanie’s family lived in the shadow of AIDS. She carried the weight of the uncertain trajectory of her father’s health and the heartbreaking anticipation of impending loss silently and alone. It became a way of life.
A Hard Silence is an intimate glimpse into Melanie’s memories of coping with the tragedy of her father’s illness and enduring the loneliness and isolation of not being able to speak. With candor and vulnerability, Melanie opens her grief wounds and brings her reader inside her journey, twenty years after her father died, to finally understand the consequences of her family’s silence, to interrogate the roots of stigma and discrimination responsible for the ongoing secret-keeping, and to show how she’s learned to be authentic now.