Relationships and Queer Self-Discovery

Patti Smith wrote her biographical nonfiction “Just Kids” about her experience growing up alone in NYC with her friend Robert Mapplethorpe. Patti goes through a lot of self discovery as a person and as an artist, while Robert does the same, learning to express his identity as a gay man in his art. He and his boyfriend end up dying of AIDS in the 80s. The book is about his journey, her journey, and their journey coming to terms with the barriers of sexuality. Smith describes the book as a sort of eulogy.
Opening this book I didn’t know much about either of the two and left it that way, taking it as it came in Patti’s own words. I rapidly attached to Robert’s character a mirror of understanding: my own discovery of my sexuality was pretty late compared to what feels like a lot of folks have so even reading his story in the past year was life-changing. Smith approaches him with such understanding and love I was blindsided, and to watch him fade away into another statistic hit my heart.
Angels in America’s image of AIDS-related celebrity death comes from a different perspective within the same era, a lack of acceptance in a wildly different environment. Robert became respected in his time in art and photography subcultures, and remained so, able to sell his collection to a famous museum before dying. I think it would be a good perspective on the cards different queer people are dealt and how they deal with their relationships. His with both Patti and both sets of parents reflect queer issues in fascinating and specific ways.

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