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Scarlet Ribbons: A Priest with AIDS Paperback – July 29, 2017
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From Library Journal
This profound story tells of the life, and complicated death, of Simon Bailey, the Anglican priest in Dinnington, a Yorkshire mining village. After struggling to accept his identity as a gay male and becoming sexually active, Simon was faced with a foreshortened life when, in the early 1980s, he found out that he had AIDS. He told no one until he fell ill. In response, his friends, family, and parishioners rallied around him with care and support. This beautifully written book by Simon's sister, a journalist, candidly takes things that may be unfamiliar?including gay sexuality, AIDS, Anglican spirituality, and English church life?and makes them familiar and human. This quiet story of profound faith and courage, in which the cross Simon bore led not only to death but to a quiet triumph of the spirit, is recommended for all public libraries.?John R. Leech, Brooklyn, NY
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Kirkus Reviews
Successfully integrating her voices of loving sister and dispassionate reporter, the author, a journalist, tells the life story of her brother, Simon Bailey, a gay priest in the Church of England who died in 1995 of AIDS. Drawing from his journals and sermons, from interviews with parishioners, other family members, and friends, the author traces the rocky path her brother walked from his youthful awareness of sexual difference, to his conversion out of the austere Baptist Church in which he was raised into the more ``esthetic and sensual'' Church of England, to his ordination, years of ministry to Dinnington parish in Yorkshire, and his final physical decline under the tender watch and care of his devoted parishioners. Much of the drama of the story unfolds in the step-by-step process by which the priest admits friends, close parishioners, family, church hierarchy, and the pressin that orderto the knowledge of his illness, a sequence that moves the author frankly to confess how ``immensely sad'' it is that she, her siblings, and parents were not among the first to be trusted with the news. That unself-justifying candor is part of what makes Bailey the perfect memorialist of her brother. Though she joyfully communicates the high points of reactions to his illnessespecially the unprecedented public support he received, as an AIDS-afflicted Anglican priest, to continue actively in his priestly office, as he wished, up until he diedshe also admits to moral misgivings over the secrecy he kept for so long. Simon's shortened life reminds Bailey of the dying Beth from Little Women; but his capacity to transform private suffering into eloquent and edifying sermons will suggest to many readers of Scarlet Ribbons another, more ambiguous literary portrait from Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter: the long-suffering minister, Arthur Dimmesdale. The ambiguities in Simon's life that the author preserves in her memorial of him will deepen and extend the impression he leaves. (16 b&w photos) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This book was written by a journalist, Father Simon's sister. Relatives who cared for people with AIDS may really relate to her struggles. Still, I got tired of reading, "Here are some facts. And here are some comments from my brother's diary. And here are some comments from my own."
This book spoke of a different place and a different time. Britain can be seen as having better gay rights laws than the US. I think Britain's HIV crisis is not as intense as that in the US. The Anglican Church is huge in Britain, but Episcopalians, the US equivalent, only make up about 2% of the US population. When Americans think of gay priests, they'd probably think of Catholic ones, rather than Episcopal ones, first. Also, the US has had a major crisis over pedophile priests; that topic isn't mentioned in this book at all.
This book may feel dated as stronger HIV drugs were manufactured shortly after Father Simon died. Perhaps he would have lived if he had had them. There is an emphasis on "dying from AIDS" in this book and now many people "live with AIDS" via these new and improved medications. Additionally, this book may feel VERY anti-climactic. As a priest who supported liberal causes, loved dancing, and worked in the theater, the author makes it clear that everyone suspected her brother was gay, including her family. When her brother became shockingly thin and couldn't shake medical problems, it was just obvious to his flock that he had HIV. So this is not about a man who shocked the community by his orientation and health status.
The book is not a difficult read, but it took me forever to finish. I don't know these church members. I didn't see the British TV show on which Father Simon came out on two matters. Perhaps only Britons who saw the news segment will relate to this book.