Books by Mary Fisher

MY NAME IS MARY by Mary Fisher
Released: Jan. 1, 1996

This autobiography of an outspoken HIV-positive Republican and recovering alcoholic is moving when the author steers clear of hackneyed therapeutic language. Fisher (I'll Not Go Quietly, p. 684, etc.), a former Ford administration advance ``man'' and wealthy socialite from a prominent Republican family, has become a public symbol for the lesson that no one is immune to HIV. Fisher's life, despite her privilege, has been anything but easy. Her father abandoned her when she was very young, and much of her life has been spent trying to please Max Fisher, her mother's second husband, an emotionally distant man whose life was politics (he served as a close adviser to presidents Ford and Nixon). Her mother was an alcoholic, as was Mary, who also married twice. Both marriages ended in divorce; after the second divorce, she learned that her ex-husband had infected her with HIV. In her description of her treatment for alcoholism, the well-worn recovery narrative and its attendant jargon get tiresome. However, the excerpts from her speeches are powerful, as are her descriptions of speaking at the 1992 Republican convention and her last day with her dying ex-husband. Her political awakening, however, is only partly rendered: As she becomes part of the AIDS community, she loses friends to the disease, and she gets more critical of conservative responses to AIDS. Yet Fisher is too cautious, no doubt to protect her family and to maintain her political influence. She characterizes some Republican rhetoric on HIV-positive immigrants as ``grisly'' and condemns the Christian right for its moralism. But Fisher writes around other issues, leaving it unclear, for instance, whether she agrees with media accounts that portrayed her famous 1992 speech as the only moment of compassion in an otherwise vicious convention. Despite such gaps and predictable celebrity-in-recovery clichÇs, a strong memoir by a woman who has straddled fascinating contradictions. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour) Read full book review >
I'LL NOT GO QUIETLY by Mary Fisher
Released: July 10, 1995

A second well-intentioned collection of speeches by an HIV- positive artist and mother who first gained national attention by addressing the 1992 Republican National Convention. AIDS activist Fisher (Sleep with the Angels, 1993) has a straightforward message: Everyone is at risk for AIDS, and everyone with HIV or AIDS deserves compassion and support. There are no ``innocent'' or ``guilty'' means of HIV transmission, she admirably insists; the only thing ``evil'' in the AIDS crisis is the ignorance that allows HIV to keep spreading. Fisher delivered the book's first speech at a September 1993 memorial service for her former husband, from whom she contracted the virus (she was diagnosed after they were divorced). Over the subsequent 14 months documented here she spoke to an impressively diverse array of audiences, including Christian and Jewish congregations, female convicts, AIDS caregivers, an FDA committee on home testing for HIV, and a capacity crowd at a San Francisco Giants game. Even in a talk given at an American Jewish Committee tribute to her father, industrialist Max M. Fisher, she deftly works in her compassionate message about AIDS. As polished by her collaborator, A. James Heynen (credited in the acknowledgments, if not on the title page), the speeches have some eloquent moments. But many of the rhetorical devices that might work when said aloud seem stilted on paper, particularly when recycled from speech to speech: Fisher's awkward description of people with HIV as ``pilgrims on the road to AIDS,'' for instance, becomes no more graceful after a half-dozen repetitions. The inclusion of photos of the author's two small, cute children at the start of each speech is sentimental overkill. Fisher can only be applauded for pursuing a necessary humanitarian mission; readers with a fairly high tolerance for the tics of inspirational lit should find her testimonials touching. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 1994

Inspirational speeches—along with autobiographical material—given from May 1992 through June 1993 by Fisher, former White House staffer in the Ford Administration, AIDS activist, and founder of the Family AIDS Network. Fisher, who was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1991 (she contracted the disease from her husband but found out about it only after their divorce), is best known for her moving address before the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston. That speech is included here, as are more than 20 others delivered before various groups around the US and at the International Conference on AIDS in Amsterdam. All the speeches were skillfully drafted by Jim Heynen, a P.R. consultant, who apparently also had a hand in producing the first-person narratives that introduce and give context to each speech. Because the speeches were given before such disparate audiences as high-school students, women's groups, health-care professionals, newspaper editors, Planned Parenthood supporters, Betty Ford Center alumni, religious assemblies, and community leaders, there's some variety in emphasis, but the basic message remains the same: We are all at risk for AIDS. Fisher presents herself as a prime example: If the virus can strike a woman such as herself—sheltered, privileged- -it can strike anyone. The author argues eloquently for compassion for AIDS victims and against complacency, for involvement and against prejudice. The title is taken from her nightly wish to her beloved sons, three-year-old Zachary and five-year-old Max, to whom she makes frequent reference and whose uncertain future as motherless children forms the book's poignant subtext. Individually, the pieces are touching—but repetition robs them of much of their impact. Read full book review >