Tell Me What You're Reading #18: Orrick Pride Month Celebration - The Great Believers
We recorded this special episode of our podcast at the offices of my law firm, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe as part of Orrick’s celebration of Pride Month and the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
I’m very proud to say that Orrick has a long standing commitment to inclusiveness that enables the LGBTQ lawyers and staff of the firm to be authentic and to thrive. For 13 consecutive years, Orrick achieved a perfect score in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s annual Corporate Equality Index, which evaluates LGBTQ-related policies and practices, and Orrick was one of the first global law firms to offer benefits to same-sex couples and to also offer fully inclusive transgender benefits. LGBTQ Inclusiveness and Leadership @Orrick
In connection with our Pride Month Celebration, New York City office leader and Orrick partner Laura Metzger suggested that I record a podcast discussion of the very moving, beautiful and at the same time devastating, award winning novel, The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai, about the AIDs epidemic in Chicago in the 1980s, its impact on the young gay men and on the survivors as well.
I was pleased to have had two Orrick colleagues join me in discussing this book.
Alvin Lee, a member of the firm's Complex Litigation and Dispute Resolution Group, is highly active in pro bono matters and focuses his pro bono representation on low-income LGBT communities, and Amy Pasacreta, a member of Orrick’s Restructuring Group joins us as well. Like many of my guests on the podcast, Amy is a prolific reader of a wide variety of books, as is Alvin as well.
I recently posted a note on Twitter where I referred to The Great Believers as a moving and multifaceted novel that includes community and family, crisis and loss, memory and legacy, survivors and their burden, and with a life affirming end.
The Great Believers follows parallel narratives in alternating chapters.
First, there is a group of friends in Chicago during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, illuminating the loss and struggle of the day-to-day realities of living and loving during the height of the AIDS crisis. The story begins in 1985 with the funeral of a young man by the name of Nico. As the virus continues to take its toll on the gay community in Chicago, Nico’s sister Fiona comes to care for many of Nico’s friends.
And then there is the search by Fiona, 30 years later in 2015, for her estranged daughter who had joined a cult and then was living in Paris. While in Paris, Fiona stays with an old friend, a photographer who documented the Chicago epidemic, and Fiona finds herself surrounded by memories and reminders of that time, and begins to understand just how profoundly the AIDS crisis affected her life, grappling with what she sacrificed in caring for and loving these men, sacrifices that affected her marriage and her relationship with her daughter.
Truly parallel narratives, closely woven together.
One review referred to The Great Believers as “a powerful meditation, not on death, but rather on the power and gift of love and friendship.”
The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai