Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993

by Sarah Schulman

Hardcover, 2021


"In just six years, ACT UP, New York, a broad and unlikely coalition of activists from all races, genders, sexualities, and backgrounds, changed the world. Armed with rancor, desperation, intelligence, and creativity, it took on the AIDS crisis with an indefatigable, ingenious, and multifaceted attack on the corporations, institutions, governments, and individuals who stood in the way of AIDS treatment for all. They stormed the FDA and NIH in Washington, DC, and started needle exchange programs in New York; they took over Grand Central Terminal and fought to change the legal definition of AIDS to include women; they transformed the American insurance industry, weaponized art and advertising to push their agenda, and battled--and beat--The New York Times, the Catholic Church, and the pharmaceutical industry. Their activism, in its complex and intersectional power, transformed the lives of people with AIDS and the bigoted society that had abandoned them." -- "Based on more than two hundred interviews with ACT UP members and rich with lessons for today's activists, Let the Record Show is a revelatory exploration--and long-overdue reassessment--of the coalition's inner workings, conflicts, achievements, and ultimate fracture. Schulman, one of the most revered queer writers and thinkers of her generation, explores the how and the why, examining, with her characteristic rigor and bite, how a group of desperate outcasts changed America forever, and in the process created a livable future for generations of people across the world."--… (more)



Call number



Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2021), 736 pages

User reviews

LibraryThing member SamMusher
Incredibly rich, inspiring oral history — not feel-good inspirational, but inspiring in the sense that, as an activist, I feel inspired to approach my challenges in different ways. Anyone interested in queer or activist history should read at least some of it, and anyone actively engaged in
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understanding how to make change should probably read all of it.
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LibraryThing member framberg
I read this book after hearing Shulman speak with Sam Sanders on It's Been a Minute. The history she reveals here is inspiring, agonizing, and deeply human. By using oral histories and letting the ACT UP activists speak for themselves Shulman creates immediacy and urgency. This book covers my
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5th-12th grade years, and while I was aware of AIDS and ACT UP neither were part of my everyday life. Having this lens into this time, and a primer on the possibilities of creative, purposeful activism, is truly powerful. I appreciated hearing Shulman's voice throughout as well. She doesn't center herself in the narrative, but she doesn't erase herself either. This model of journalism contributes to my overall sense of the book as being, beyond any specific content, human and humane.
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Original language


Original publication date



0374185131 / 9780374185138
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