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Like a Love Story adds to the renewed interest in 1980s New York City we’ve seen of late, from Ava DuVernay’s exploration of the Central Park jogger case When They See Us to Ryan Murphy’s portrayal of the pulsating ball culture that rose during the decade in Pose.
It was a time that saw the emergence of groundbreaking stars like Madonna and activists fighting for members of the LGBTQ community and those grappling with the AIDS virus, a disease that spread as fast as the misinformation about it. But the setting is just one of many reasons why Abdi Nazemian’s Like a Love Story serves as a meaningful historical and cultural record. The novel weaves together three storylines and tackles a range of ever pertinent subject matters: the immigrant experience, the sacrifice of advocacy, and the struggle one faces when they fail to fall in line with social norms.
Set in 1989, the story follows Reza, an Iranian teen struggling to come to terms with his sexuality; Judy, an aspiring fashion designer who idolizes her AIDS-stricken uncle Stephen; and Art, Judy’s best friend and their school’s only out and proud student. As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza fears he’ll lose Judy, the only true friend he’s ever had, by breaking her heart.
Like a Love Story also offers a thoughtful and informative retrospective of the Act Up movement, and intriguingly meditates on the impact of icons on the queer community, from Judy Garland to Elizabeth Taylor to, of course, Madonna. Each line Nazemian writes is colorful and poetic, pulling the reader into a thrilling yet heartbreaking journey that’s so multilayered, it can be enjoyed on repeat reads. The world he paints is so rich, in fact, it makes the open ended conclusion somewhat difficult to digest. These characters are not easy to part with. —Justine Browning