Schulman’s own political awakening came early. Many of her family members were killed during the Holocaust and she grew up listening to the stories of neighbors and friends who had stayed there and had done nothing. The spectator’s face haunts his work. In the 1980s, she started working for the gay press, while writing fiction.
Novels are eclairs in a bottle. All the guts and guns, cockeyed verbs – and the girls. Imagine if Patricia Highsmith hadn’t had to hide behind male figures, if the flowers in Djuna Barnes ‘greenhouse had to be at work (or frankly anywhere) in the morning, if Jean Rhys’ women drank each other across seated on an upturned crate of milk in the back of a seedy deli.
Schulman’s novel “After Delores” remains my personal defibrillator. When I feel numb or complacent from reading too much, too fast, too professionally, it’s the book that shocks me. He’s a quick, funny black lesbian – and a powerful AIDS novel in which the disease is rarely mentioned but stalks every page, is felt in the cosmology of a fictional world in which people suddenly disappear and there is no has no guarantee of safety, only the smallest of consolations that we can offer ourselves.
I am dwelling here, on the novels, because they are essential to understand Schulman. She writes documentaries as an artist, she insists, not as a historian or scholar. It does not measure its success by the proof of its arguments but by their usefulness, fullness and provocation.
The organizing principle of “Let the Record Show” stems from Isaac Bashevis Singer’s novel “Enemies, a Love Story”. Schulman was inspired by the fact that Singer felt no qualms about creating virtuous Jewish characters as if to point out that virtue was not a prerequisite for compassion. In calamity, “people just become themselves. But even more, ”she wrote in“ Rat Bohemia ”.
But the history of AIDS has been deeply twisted – gentrified, Schulman might say. There is a vile tradition of keeping straight people at the “heroic center” of the story: see “Philadelphia,” “Angels in America” and “Rent,” which seemed to rip off and weirdly distort Schulman’s novel “People in Trouble.” . “
The other serious misrepresentation she perceives comes from stories like David France’s 2013 documentary, “How to Survive a Plague.” France gave the impression that it was a few white homosexuals who supported ACT UP. According to Schulman, he ignored the contributions of activists who were women or people of color and how their backgrounds in black liberation movements, labor and reproductive rights deeply influenced the strategy. France’s focus on a few “heroic individuals”, writes Schulman, “could mislead contemporary activists that in America political progress is won by coalitions.”