Two local authors are using area towns and neighborhoods as inspirations for their latest novels.
Stefani Moore’s “Last Dance in Paradise” is set in a fictional New Jersey town in 1995 where a number of drag queens are coming together to perform a benefit show for one of their own, who is stricken with HIV.
Moore said she set the story in the mid-1990s because it was a pivotal point in the AIDS crisis.
“I wanted to pick a date right before when the new medicines that we have today became FDA-approved and came out,” she said. “Back in that time in the early 1990s, if you found out that you were HIV-positive, it was pretty much a death sentence; there was no hope. I remember one week in 1995 going to three funerals. People really didn’t talk about it, even after the new medicines came out. They would not admit to having AIDS. There was a stigma attached to it. It was a scary time.”
Moore said anybody who knows the area will recognize the fictional town in the novel as really being New Hope, Pa. All of the characters, even the minor players, are inspired from her own past.
“I’ve been a little bit nervous about how people are going to take this because every one of the characters are based on actual people that I knew or met, even the minor characters. Of course all the names have been changed to protect the guilty and the innocent. I spoke to this one person and she told me she knew every character in the book and when she read the book, it made her cry to remember these people and kind of have them brought back to life,” Moore said. “My goal in the book was to not throw stones at the villains but to pay tribute to people that I knew when times were at their worst. The AIDS crisis was the worst thing that could happen to the gay community and yet in some way they rose to the occasion and they were at their best.”
Brad Windhauser set his new novel, “Intersection,” in gentrifying South Philadelphia where a white gay driver critically injures a black bicyclist. The residents of the neighborhood can’t decide whether to unite, hide or explode.
Windhauser said he based the book on his experiences as a Philadelphia resident.
“Some of it was direct experience. Some of it was absorbed through research. Some of it was absorbed through conversation with my fellow residents,” he said. “Gentrification isn’t just affecting Philly, but a lot of cities across the country. People can see — if not their perspective on it — how other people would feel about it. Gentrification is both positive and negative, depending on which side of it you’re on. The goal of the book is to add as many perspectives to this issue.”
Windhauser added that gentrification is more than just an LGBT issue, even though people often associate it with the gay community.
“In San Francisco, we were the first to go in these neighborhoods and fix them up,” he said. “Oftentimes we have been on the front lines. Some of the thinking has been that, because we’re used to being marginalized by society, we were OK not fitting into a neighborhood. We went in and forced ourselves to make things our own that made sense to us, so we’ve always been on the front lines of gentrification.”
Stefani Moore hosts a reading and book signing 1-5 p.m. Sept. 24 at New Hope Celebrates LGBT Exhibit Center, 34 S. Main St.
Brad Windhauser hosts a reading and book signing 6-7:30 p.m. Sept. 24 at Tabu, 200 S. 12th St. For more information, visit www.bradwindhauser.com.