Books

Pioneering gay author Mark Merlis dies, aged 67

Husna Rizvi August 24, 2017
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Highly praised gay author, Mark Merlis, has died from pneumonia as a result of complications from ALS in his home in Pennsylvania.

Most famous for his novel American Studies, Merlis wrote prolifically during the 90s HIV epidemic in America.

The novel chronicles the parallel delights and agonies of being gay in America during the McCarthy era.

Brought up in Baltimore, Maryland in a Jewish household, Merlis was a health policy advocate for most of his adult life.

Eventually he would go on to become instrumental in the creation of the largest federally funded HIV treatment program in America, known as the 1990 Ryan White Care Act.

The Act was crucial to tackling the AIDS crisis in the United States, providing access to treatment for people battling HIV/AIDS.

Pioneering gay author Mark Merlis dies, aged 67

Asked in an interview with EchoNYC whether he’d call himself a GayLit author, Merlis responded, “I am, of course, a gay man whose … novels are swarming with gay characters, and I have allowed myself to be marketed as a practitioner of a genre called gay fiction.”

“But this is a commercial category, not an artistic one. I write, like anybody else, about how it is to be human.”

His novels have raked in a number of awards and accolades including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the Lamba Literary Award for Gay Fiction.

Asked what he’d done to prepare for such a successful career, Merlis admits he just spent his “college years brooding about those unwelcome queer feelings” that he couldn’t shake off.

The Wall Street Journal calls his work “beautifully controlled and heart-wrenching.”

Mark Merlis died on August 15, 2017, in Philadelphia. He was 67 years old and is survived by his husband, Robert Ashe.

Related topics: US

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