In December 1995, the FDA approved the release of protease inhibitors, the first effective treatment for AIDS. For
countless people, the drug offered a reprieve from what had been a death sentence; for others, it was too late. In the
United States alone, over 318,000 people had already died from AIDS-related complicationsamong them the singer Michael
Callen and the poet Essex Hemphill.
Meticulously researched and evocatively told, Hold Tight Gently is the celebrated historian Martin Duberman’s poignant
memorial to those lost to AIDS and to two of the great unsung heroes of the early years of the epidemic.
Callen, a white gay Midwesterner who had moved to New York, became a leading figure in the movement to increase
awareness of AIDS in the face of willful and homophobic denial under the Reagan administration; Hemphill, an African
American gay man, contributed to the black gay and lesbian scene in Washington, D.C., with poetry of searing intensity
A profound exploration of the intersection of race, sexuality, class, identity, and the politics of AIDS activism beyond
ACT UP, Hold Tight Gently captures both a generation struggling to cope with the deadly disease and the extraordinary
refusal of two men to give in to despair.