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Michael McColly

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Michael McColly's The After-Death Room: Journey Into Spiritual Activism (Soft Skull) takes its name not from some ghostly limbo but from a brutally corporeal chamber at a Thai AIDS clinic: a "museum" reeking of formaldehyde that contains the preserved corpses of seven of the clinic's dead. For McColly, a bisexual HIV-positive journalist and yoga teacher, it's yet another of the callous indignities visited upon the overwhelmingly poor and powerless victims of the pandemic. Throughout this memoir of a ground-level odyssey through AIDS hotspots of the world--Cape Town, Chennai, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Dakar, and the south side of Chicago, the author's hometown--McColly struggles with the complications of his place in the story. His HIV status opens doors, but his relative health and wealth set him a world away from his subjects, who grapple with challenges he can barely comprehend. An intimate, empathetic look at the global face of AIDS, The After-Death Room is also a revelatory (and at times painfully self-conscious) exploration of one man's efforts to come to terms with his fears and desires in the hope of better understanding not only himself but the whole wide world. a Tue 11/28, 7 PM, Chicago Cultural Center, Claudia Cassidy Theater, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630 or 877-394-5061.

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