April 18, 2017 at 3:36 pm

Wisland Publishes Essay on AIDS Crisis, Father’s Life

Creative writing doctoral student, Kirk Wisland

Creative writing doctoral student Kirk Wisland

by Kristin M. Distel

“This is the story of one of the longest-surviving HIV-positive men in the United States, a story irrevocably intertwined with my own,” says Kirk Wisland, doctoral candidate in creative writing.

Wisland has published an essay in the latest issue of Proximity Magazine. The essay, “Inheritance,” chronicles Wisland’s experiences of growing up as the son of an HIV-positive father who was diagnosed during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.

“Inheritance” weaves together Wisland’s own memories with the painful account of his parents’ divorce, his father’s struggle to come to terms with his sexuality, and the ways in which his father’s diagnosis has affected the way Wisland thinks about gender, health, and relationships.

The essay places particular focus on the ways in a teenaged Wisland grappled with the social stigmas surrounding his father’s sexuality and HIV-positive diagnosis.

“My father had every right to hold Dave’s hand as he walked across the street—as much right as any other couple in the thralls of new love. It was a brave gesture, circa 1985, even in a liberal, gay-friendly city like Minneapolis. My father was out, and proud, and in love, and that should have been something to celebrate, something only a selfish kid or homophobe would begrudge. But I could not celebrate. I lagged a few steps behind, trying to cultivate an air of nonchalance, but I was full of fear, scanning the street for trouble,” Wisland writes.

In summer of 2016, Wisland received a scholarship from OHIO’s English department to help fund the primary research involved in writing this essay and his dissertation at large. He describes his dissertation as “an expanded book-length version” of “Inheritance.”

Wisland’s essay collection The Melancholy of Falling Men was selected by Roxane Gay for the 2015 Iron Horse Single Author Chapbook Prize. He currently lives in Tucson. Readers may follow him on Twitter at @KirkWisland.




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