David France Has Won the 2017 Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction
For How to Survive a Plague, a history of activists vs. the AIDS epidemic
David France has been awarded the 2017 Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction for his book How to Survive a Plague, a history of the AIDS epidemic in America in the 80s and early 90s, and the story of the patients and activists who turned the tide. The book is also a personal narrative. “I felt I owed it to the reader to let them know the witness,” France told Literary Hub. “It is the first and only time I have written about my own experience in the plague.” He will be awarded £30,000.
In a statement, Chair of the Judges Sir Peter Bazalgette said: “In our winner we were looking for something that is incredibly well written, enjoyable and also important. How to Survive a Plague is all of these things and also works on three levels: it’s the personal story of a gay man, the history of the prejudice that gay men faced during the AIDS epidemic and the worldwide scientific story of the search for a treatment for AIDS.”
Sarah Whitley, Partner of Baillie Gifford and Chair of its Sponsorship Committee, added: ”I am pleased to award the second Baillie Gifford Prize to a book that combines a very important piece of social history, unforgettable to those of us who were young adults in the early 1980s, describes collective action in the face of official intransigence and also outlines the ultimate achievement of controlling a modern plague.”
Read David France’s conversation with Tim Murphy about the lessons we can take from the history of AIDS activism here.