In December 1995, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the release of protease inhibitors, the first effective treatment for AIDS. For countless people, the drug offered a reprieve from what had been a death sentence; for others, it was too late. In the United States alone, more than 318,000 people had already died from AIDS-related complications–among them the singer Michael Callen and the poet Essex Hemphill.“Relevant and heartbreaking” (Bay Area Reporter), “incisive, passionate, and poetic” (New York Journal of Books), and “powerful” (Kirkus Reviews), Hold Tight Gently is Martin Duberman’s poignant memorial to two of the great unsung heroes of the early years of the epidemic. Callen, the author of How to Have Sex in an Epidemic, was a leading figure in the fight against AIDS in the face of willful denial under the Reagan administration. Hemphill, a passionate activist and the author of the celebrated Ceremonies, was a critically acclaimed openly gay African American poet of searing intensity and introspection. A profound exploration of the intersection of race, sexuality, class, and identity, Hold Tight Gently captures both a generation struggling to cope with the deadly disease and the extraordinary refusal of two men to give in to despair.