Using the Delta Fever to Reassert AIDS into the Current Discourse: An Analysis of Sherri L. Smith’s Orleans (By Sam E. and Alison R.)

In Sherri L. Smith’s novel Orleans, disease is a key plot element. We argue that the Delta Fever (DF) parallels HIV/AIDS through the construction of the disease as a blood-borne virus treated as highly contagious by caretakers. Gross, Goldsmith and Carruth argue that HIV/AIDS discourse for young people has been silenced. Referencing Michel Foucault, we argue, however, that this parallel does not take AIDS out of discourse, but rather reintroduces it into the conversation.

Gross et al. posit that there is little written about HIV/AIDS in current research and literature, silencing youth affected by the disease (397). Rather than this silence indicating the discovery of a cure or containment, it suggests “that HIV/AIDS is not a critical issue in the United States,” (Gross et al. 398) meaning silence “[operates] as a sentence to disappear,” (Foucault 4). But Foucault suggests that silencing something admits it exists, seen in Smith’s metaphor for AIDS, suggesting that HIV/AIDS is a problem in youth populations (Foucault 6). Without explicitly setting AIDS in discourse, Smith subtly alerts readers to the fact that “[t]he young adult population is one of the subgroups in which the incidence of newly diagnosed [HIV/AIDS] infections continues to grow quietly. Half of new infections occur in young people under age twenty-five,” (Gross et al. 398).

Smith’s metaphor extends throughout the novel, as both diseases are diagnosed similarly. HIV and DF are both easily spread by sharing blood with someone else who is diseased, through methods such as an open wound or blood transfusion (AIDS.gov; Smith 72). The early symptoms of the DF include weakness, fatigue, and confusion (Smith 21), similar to the early stage of HIV where flu-like symptoms occur, such as fatigue (AIDS.gov). The DF progresses so that its victims’ skin turn a chalky yellow color with bruises, and eventually leads to insanity (Smith 21). Similarly, AIDS is characterized by “red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin,” “tiredness,” “memory loss, … and neurologic disorders,” (AIDS.gov).

It is important to note that a carrier can give HIV, which leads to AIDS if untreated, to another without showing symptoms. The case is the same for Fen de la Guerre, Smith’s protagonist. As a Native of Orleans, she carries the virus but does not show any symptoms (Smith 61). As with those infected with AIDS, those affected by the DF rarely make it to adulthood (Smith 14). Unlike DF, however, HIV “does not survive long outside the human body (such as on surfaces) and it cannot reproduce outside a human host.” (AIDS.gov). Fen on the other hand fears that she is unclean and cannot hold Lydia’s baby because she is “covered in it. Fever be in the water, the air,” (Smith 314).

Another striking parallel between the DF and AIDS is how both diseases were treated by the uninfected. Just as Smith’s character Daniel suggests, the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s caused a “new form of racism,” (Smith 207) constructed as homophobia, as the fear of AIDS was linked to the homosexual population believed to be originators of the disease (Clews). Many were afraid to encounter those diagnosed with AIDS until the disease was given an official name and cause in 1983 (Clews). The US Center for Disease Control aimed to qualm worries about the disease’s contagiousness by stating that “there has been no evidence that the disease was acquired through casual contact with AIDS patients or with persons in population groups with an increased incidence of AIDS,” (Clews). Before this, nurses were afraid to treat patients with AIDS as they feared they would catch the deadly disease as well.  In Orleans, we do not get any excerpts of the nuns interacting with DF patients; the nuns do not even touch citizens as they exchange notes through a statue, rather than through direct contact (244). Additionally, AIDS was not taken seriously until it was proven that heterosexuals could acquire the disease as well (Clews). Daniel’s character parallels this selective caring, as he only becomes interested in finding a cure for the virus that has affected Orleans for 50 years after his young brother falls ill (Smith 45).

This brief early history of AIDS parallels the treatment and view of DF, as in Orleans the Southern portion of the United States was put under quarantine to try to prevent people from coming across the disease (Smith 6; 15). We have previously stated that AIDS and HIV cannot be spread by touch or sharing the same air as someone, but the citizens of the Outer States and Orleans do not have the same access to this information about the DF. For them, this quarantine is the only legitimate way to protect themselves. And it is not just the lay citizens who need protection; the Ursuline nuns take precautions to not come in contact with the disease either–just as AIDS caretakers did. The Ursuline nuns place the Fever victims in the furthest recess of the hospital, even a “black curtain [hiding] it from view,” (Smith 21). Caretakers in the 1980s took similar precautions to not come in contact with the virus–such as wearing gloves all the time, as one caretaker explains (Brown 37; 42; 44). But while one caretaker mentioned using bleach to get rid of any fluids an infected person may release, the nuns simply used tarps to cover the walls of the hospital because they were easy to throw out–with or without a body (Smith 21). Even Daniel wears a full-body suit and refuses to eat Orleans food so as to not catch the virus (Smith 53; 156).

To conclude, in Orleans, Smith positions the Delta Fever to parallel the 1980s AIDS crisis in their symptoms and response by the public. We argue that Smith’s parallel brings the current AIDS crisis into discourse as her extended metaphor causes people to rethink who AIDS is affecting today, and how.

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you agree that Smith is basing the Delta Fever off of HIV/AIDS? Why or why not? What else could The Fever be representative of?
  2. Is the author being critical about the way people reacted to those infected by HIV/AIDS in the 1980s? If yes, how so? If no, why not?
  3. Do you believe that instead of paralleling the virus to the gay population in the early 1980s, Smith creates a parallel to current poor black youth’s complications with AIDS? What would you cite from Orleans to support this argument?

 

Works Cited

AIDS.gov. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. http://www.aids.gov/. Accessed 1 Dec. 2016.

Brown, Rebecca. “The Gift of Skin.” The Gifts of the Body. HarperPerennial, 1994, pp. 37-48.

Clews, Colin. “1980s. HIV/AIDS: Why Was AIDS Called ‘the Gay Plague’? Gay in the 80s, 21 Apr. 2014, www.gayinthe80s.com/2014/04/1980s-hivaids-why-was-aids-called-the-gay-plague/.

Foucault, Michel. “We ‘Other Victorians.’” The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. Translated by Robert Hurley, Vintage Books, 1990.

Gross, Melissa et al. “What Do Young Adult Novels Say About Hiv/Aids? A Second Look.” Library Quarterly, vol. 78, no. 4, 2008, pp. 397-418.

Smith, Sherri L. Orleans. Penguin, 2013.

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20 thoughts on “Using the Delta Fever to Reassert AIDS into the Current Discourse: An Analysis of Sherri L. Smith’s Orleans (By Sam E. and Alison R.)

  1. I would like to respond to your question of whether Smith creates a parallel to current poor black youth’s complications with AIDS, as opposed to making connections with the gay population in the 1980s. I think there is an common assumption that although today the communities in America most affected with HIV-AIDS are lower-income Black and Hispanic, a mutually exclusive viewpoint separates these experiences from those within the gay, male population of the 1980s. I would argue that the two communities should not be viewed as separate entities, and instead the narrative of the AIDS epidemic should include both communities as often overlapping (ie. many of those living with AIDS share the identities of being both Black and gay), and the modern-day struggles of poor Black youth should not necessarily “cancel out” earlier struggles within the gay community.
    If we are considering this novel as a re-introduction of the AIDS conversation, then I must wonder why the devastation within the gay community in the 1980s is not in any way hinted at or allegorically presented. Although the experiences of the underprivileged Black community are easily translated through the setting and characters within this book, the fact that there is no indication of homosexuality within any characters or memories at all seems odd, even if considered within Foucault’s framework of silence and acknowledgement. Altogether, if the story of Orleans is to be considered as a parallel to the AIDS epidemic within the United States, one must wonder why Smith did not include any reference to homosexuality to acknowledge the origins of this issue. Although this is not necessarily problematic because of her significant representation of modern-day HIV-AIDS affected communities, it certainly opens up a dialogue within the discourse of the lack of gay representation in YA dystopia.

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    1. I think your comment is really important because our work does lack an intersectional viewpoint. You are right to say that you can be gay and black as the two are not mutually exclusive. I picked up on this allusion to AIDS based on how the disease was treated as a highly contagious pandemic during the ’80s when the cause was still unknown. So I was not particularly focusing on the disease specifically related to the gay population, but rather, as to how they were treated.
      I think we can argue that homosexuality, or at least homoromance, is present in the novel through Lydia and Fen’s relationship. In 1980s AIDS discourse, the idea of mourning was highly represented in literature as almost every queer person knew someone affected by/lost to the disease. We can read Lydia’s death and Fen’s subsequent mourning as a parallel to this mourning discourse that was present in the 1980’s.
      Thank you for your insightful comment!

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  2. I think this argument is great, I had never thought about the DF in relation to AIDS and your argument has given me a new perceptive of the novel. And in answer to your first question now I have thought about your argument I do think that Delta Fever is paralleling the AIDS epidemic. I don’t think it’s a stretch to reach this conclusion once someone has read arguments such as yours and the supporting evidence, however I do think that it can be argued Smith here is simply creating a fictional disease. However, I think the clear similarities the DF has with HIV/AIDS cannot be ignored.

    I want to answer your question about whether Smith is being critical about the way people reacted to those infected and I think there are strong arguments on either side. I think Smith is being critical because she is demonstrating how when people reacted this way in relation to the DF it resulted in an entire section of the country being segregated and therefore a cure has not yet been found. Although it can be argued it is a stretch of the imagination to picture a society where whole states are cut off because of a disease such as AIDS, Smith uses it to demonstrate that the previous treatment of AIDS has lead to severe consequences for lots of communities and to this day the current stigma surrounding AIDS sufferers. On the other hand, Smith here could be simply demonstrating how if AIDS continues to be misunderstood or there continues to be a lack in funding for treatments/cures that this is what could happen, instead of her critiquing how people handled AIDS sufferers historically.

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  3. Great post!

    This is a possible connection that I never thought of while reading the book, however your blog post does a great job of explaining the parallels between the two epidemics. In terms of your first question, I do agree that the fever and societal reaction to it could easily parallel the historical reaction to the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s, however, I agree with Abbie’s comment above, and would like to note the significant lack of reference to homosexuality in the novel. Although HIV/AIDS does not discriminate against heterosexuality, there is a connection to the gay community that cannot be ignored. Perhaps the lack of homosexual representation is a result of the YA Dystopian genre’s general failure to include characters and romances that are anything but heterosexual and heteronormative, or perhaps the reader is expected to draw parallels between the delta fever and HIV/AIDS without prompting. Either way I think you make a very compelling argument and I enjoyed reading your post.

    Sarah

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    1. I will add my comment to Abbie’s response here because I think it may respond to your worries about a lack of a homosexual connection in the book:

      I think we can argue that homosexuality, or at least homoromance, is present in the novel through Lydia and Fen’s relationship. In 1980s AIDS discourse, the idea of mourning was highly represented in literature as almost every queer person knew someone affected by/lost to the disease (just as Fen says that everyone has lost someone from the Fever in Orleans). We can read Lydia’s death and Fen’s subsequent mourning as a parallel to this mourning discourse that was present in the 1980’s.

      But I want to specifically reply to your comment because I do think it is important to note that within the genre we do not see any (or very little) homosexual or homoromantic relationships. This could be the reason Smith could not create a fully-supported parallel to AIDS through the Delta Fever. This is also why it may be such a stretch for me to claim that Fen and Lydia represent a homosexual relationship when we barely get interactions from them.
      Smith may have tried to avoid using homosexuality as an indicator for AIDS because as Abbie noted, AIDS is not a gay disease and to write a book in 2014 that implied AIDS is a gay disease would be highly problematic. I would like to reassert that my argument from my blog post does not specifically equate the DF to AIDS, but the reactions to each disease are comparable. I am realizing that now through everyone’s comments, I should have made this more clear.

      But thank you for your comment!

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  4. Very interesting connection!
    Reading Orleans, I too did not think of the Delta Fever as being based off of AIDS and so his post illuminated the issue for me when thinking about the novel. I agree with your arguments and think that Smith could be making a connection to HIV/AIDS with respect to the way in which individuals infected with the Delta Fever are ostracized within the nation.
    Similarly to Frankie, I think that Smith is highlighting the issue of stigma around HIV/AIDS by emphasizing how the characters in Orleans are being segregated because of having the Delta Fever.

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  5. Interesting post! I think our in-class discussion of the Tuskegee syphilis trials complements your analysis of Delta Fever really nicely.
    Another thing to think about might be the way the infected people of the Delta can be seen as parallelling African communities with AIDS, or even Ebola. Both are composed of mostly non-white bodies that are largely ignored until the situations become dangerous to people in the West, and both are subject to well-meaning people with no real idea of the full problem, or how to be truly helpful. I thought that the Coopers, the fanily in the Outer States that ‘adopted’ Fen, were a really interesting addition to the story. Fen’s memory of receiving rubber boots with daisies on them, which she could not wear because they didn’t provide enough protection from tetanus, seems to be providing some sort of gentle critique to the charities set up to let westerners “adopt” children in poorer countries, or send shoeboxes full of cheap toys at Christmas. Though well-meaning, the Coopers were out of touch with the Orleanian reality, and ultimately unable to help combat the real problems in Fen’s life. Instead, they offered affection and the possibility of a better life beyond the Wall for the uninfected (regular rioting and food scarcity aside), a hope that gives Fen the strength to save Enola.

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  6. First of all, I am very impressed by your point in general because the parallels are shockingly similar (far too similar to be a coincidence, I think) and I did not pick up on them myself. I think your connections between DF’s and HIV/AIDS’s medical progressions and social implications are very thorough and accurate. I think it is worth discussing the implications of considering DF to be an extended metaphor for AIDS and the ‘80s epidemic in particular.
    I agree that it seems AIDS has left the literary discourse over the past few decades leading to the false assumption by young people that it is no longer an issue. While Orleans may bring the discussion back into the mainstream, I think Smith’s depiction of DF as AIDS can be seen as problematic.
    In the ‘80s, especially in the years before doctors could identify HIV and before the development of treatments, there was a lot of uncertainty about the disease and people were genuinely afraid of contracting it simply by being near an infected person. The infected were shunned, there were government advertisements urging people to be careful of contact with the disease and there was a general societal stigma against gay people, even if they weren’t infected. There was also a dominant belief that those who contracted HIV/AIDS were somehow at fault for carrying the disease. Though with more information came more acceptance, the stigma still remains to a certain extent today (gay men still cannot donate blood).
    These fears of people with the disease are also represented in Orleans. Infected people are physically separated from the healthy or carriers for fear of spreading infection. In Orleans this separation and fear is justified because the disease can be spread so easily; as Fen says, it’s actually “in the air” (314). If DF is meant to represent HIV/AIDS, this parallel is problematic in that it also justifies the fear of and stigma against infected persons in the ‘80s.
    While I am sure this particular attribute of the metaphor is unintentional, it problematizes the discussion of HIV/AIDS as DF in the novel.

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    1. I think your comment really adds an important take on our essay.
      I did not discuss fully how problematic it was to have a physical border between the infected and the healthy.
      I am left to wonder how successful this border was if Daniel’s little brother still caught the disease. Is this Smith’s representation of the notion that stigmatization and separation cannot protect people from the disease (since heterosexuals were still catching AIDS/HIV)?
      I think you make an excellent point to say that Smith continues a problematic discourse about AIDS if the DF is its parallel and can be transmitted through the air and water. It resembles the kind of AIDS discourse that caused stigmatization and hate for the gay population.

      I want to ask you–or anyone else who reads this–if we think Fen really had the Fever all along. Fen is only scared to hold Enola after being in the swamp, and if the disease is “in the water, the air. In me” (314) why wouldn’t she have infected Enola sooner? If the blood types are separated based on who has the disease in their blood, like the ABs separated from the As, the Bs, and the Os (and each other), how easy is the disease to transfer really (16)? I am wondering if Fen had been acting like a chameleon–blending in–in order to avoid people taking her pure blood. She was born in the Institution after all, when would she have contracted the disease?
      This question complicates my argument about AIDS but I wanted to get it out there for anyone who might have an opinion.

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  7. Sam and Alison,

    I find your point extremely compelling and I also did not make this connection when reading the book!

    However, I would like to address the claim you make that “In Orleans, we do not get any excerpts of the nuns interacting with DF patients”. Although I agree the way in which the Ursuline nuns treat the infected is in ways problematic, when Fen goes to get Lydia from the Ursuline Nuns’ tent at the market we see Lydia interacting with a dying DF patient whom they later leave with one of nuns, “Somebody to hold the boy’s hand when he do finally cross over”. I think this speaks to your second discussion question about whether Smith is being critical about the way people reacted to those infected by HIV/AIDS in the 1980s. This is ultimately an image of compassion. While the nun will be unable to help the boy, she is still there so that he does not have to die alone. What Smith seems to promote in this scene is the sympathy and compassion that was not present in the reaction to those infected with HIV/AIDS.

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  8. I really like the connection that you made between the Delta Fever and HIV/AIDS. The author could be creating a physical spacial representation of the way in which individuals who had HIV/AIDS in the 1980s. She does this by creating the physical wall in the novel which arguably can be seen as being representative of the social othering and normative spaces which existed during the AIDS crisis. Furthermore, the class system based around blood type which is found in the novel can arguably be representative of those who were infected with HIV/AIDS and those who were not. By closing off the Delta, the author has created a space in which those infected are trapped and actively, physically othered. The lack of knowledge which existed surrounding HIV/AIDs treatment being paralleled with the lack of knowledge surrounding Delta Fever. Your argument surrounding the parallels between HIV/AIDS and the Delta Fever is very strong. I would take it further by examining the medicalization of certain bodies based on race, class, and sexuality in the modern world and how that directly shapes the constructions of girlhood and womanhood in both the novel and modern day society.

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  9. This is an intelligent, wonderfully written argument. The connection you have built between the affect of HIV/AIDS on low-income, predominately black communities and the experience of Fen in the Delta is a strong one.

    I would be cautious though in delving too deep into the actual disease itself for fear of missing out on the novel’s social critiques. Smith was likely aware of the connection she was making between DF and HIV/AIDS, and upon reading this post I’m almost certain, but I think this connection is to be read as a side and not the “main event” as it were. In the novel, DF is the cause of rigid segregation of black communities, whereas in modernity AIDS concentration is an effect of the segregation which was happening regardless; the notion that black people are to be segregated is a part of the fabric of American society within and outside of the realm of HIV/AIDS. The fact there is no government assistance for the Delta citizens speaks to something far more malicious than a lack of education around the disease in the general American population. The possible homosexual connection you have built between Lydia and Fen is interesting, and works in conjunction with the homosexuality traditionally viewed in conjunction with HIV/AIDS, but I think it’s important to note that for Smith to be making a social commentary on HIV/AIDS through their relationship would be extremely progressive; many people still have lingering stereotypes around HIV/AIDS and I don’t imagine the general population has progressed enough in their understanding of HIV/AIDS to catch this reference. I say this because to read their relationship as romantic may take away from the themes of guidance, love, sacrifice and other social critiques Smith makes- such as Fen and Lydia’s experience with motherhood, and its connection to our society and the disproportionate number of single mothers in low-income black communities. Again, I find your argument fascinating, but feel there is more value in reading DF as an underlying theme of Deltan society rather than its core.

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    1. This also presupposes that you or anyone else were reading it as its core theme, which you very well may not have been. Food for thought regardless.

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    2. I really like that you brought up this point because as we were writing this blog post, we couldn’t decide if we should focus on the early history of AIDS in America, or the current problems of today (it’s obvious now which one we chose) and I do agree the two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive (but alas, with the word limit, we were unsure how to incorporate both ideas). If we had more room in the blog post I would have loved to address a lot of the points you brought up; they are incredibly relevant and important for those readings and critiquing the book. Your comment, to me, is like the addition of another co-author to our post. I wish we could add your thoughts to ours to make a more well-rounded discussion.
      In saying this, thank you for your comment. I really appreciate your analysis.

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  10. I absolutely agree that Smith both draws from AIDS in constructing delta fever. I also think she uses it as a critique of how AIDS was dealt with, as well as how Hurricane Katrina was dealt with, as these events provide a focus on the disenfranchisement of marginalised people and the disastrous real-life events that could well be seen as warningly dystopian.

    When the AIDS epidemic first started in the US, not only was there widespread ignorance and fear but this was to a large extent fuelled by homophobia. People drew a line between ‘innocent’ AIDS victims, meaning those who contracted it due to blood diseases, and those victims who were seen as deserving to have caught the disease — meaning gay men. Within the 1980s culture of conservatism and ‘family values’, politicians, religious leaders and the media perpetrated the view that gay men deserved what they got or were even being punished; this is in part what led to the activist slogan ‘all people with AIDS are innocent’. People’s deaths from AIDS were erased as newspapers didn’t mention it as a cause of death in obituaries, and often people who died, particularly gay men, were disowned by their families and their bodies left unclaimed. An article on out.com* describes how a woman named Ruth Coker Burks ‘cared for hundreds of dying people, many of them gay men who had been abandoned by their families. She buried more than three dozen of them herself, after their families refused to claim their bodies.’

    I think the fact that AIDS sufferers were treated this way is important and relevant to how Smith tells the story of the people of Orleans, because of how it also connects to the reaction to Hurricane Katrina. It could definitely be argued that the events surrounding the hurricane ties together the construction of Delta Fever and the social history of AIDS. After Katrina, the mostly black and low income victims of the disaster were practically abandoned by the government, not unlike the AIDS victims of the 1980s. In Orleans, the abandonment of the marginalised residents of New Orleans is taken further, as they are walled off and legally separated from the rest of America ‘to protect the inalienable rights of the majority’ (Smith 7). Smith draws on real social history, looking at how the US has treated marginalised people in dire need of help, and has simply taken this further.

    As a dystopia, Orleans draws on social problems and looks at what really could happen in the future. As the societal collapse in the novel is based on the two factors of environmental disaster and a deadly epidemic, parallels can immediately be drawn to the AIDS crisis and Hurricane Katrina. It’s all the more effective as a political narrative because it focuses on marginalised people, who have been affected in real life by the disaster that kicks off the events that create the novel’s fictionalised society. Orleans draws on a dark history, suggesting we’re doomed to repeat it, arguably making it a consciously insightful and overtly political text.

    *http://www.out.com/positive-voices/2016/5/19/meet-woman-who-cared-hundreds-abandoned-gay-men-dying-aids

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  11. Sam and Alison –

    Your arguments are compelling, and I strongly agree that the parallels are undeniable. I think Smith’s allusion to the HIV/AIDS crisis was intentional, and meant to spark consideration of how we respond to medical and scientific disasters. The most combative element of medical crises is arguably fear of the unknown. In Orleans, basic systems of protection were established and people have a rudimentary understanding of the Delta Fever. What they don’t have is comprehensive understanding, and that makes all the difference. People are scared – they fear for their lives, for their children, and are unsure of how the Delta Fever mutates and infects (aside from more vulnerable or durable blood types). In the 1980s, there was a palpable fear as well; nobody knew how or why people were getting aggressively ill and dying. The media and the government are quick to draw conclusions, quick to offer answers to an impatient and fearful public. Measures were taken rapidly and without much foresight; for example, the New York Times published an article in 1981 titled, “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals,” and AIDS.gov goes on to acknowledge that it was at this point that “the term ‘gay cancer’ [entered] the public lexicon.”

    People with HIV/AIDS were denied access to many institutions and establishments as “protection” for uninfected citizens. Only in 2015 did the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), announce that it will lift its 30-year-old ban on all blood donations by men who have sex with men, thus allowing them to donate if they have not been sexually active for the previous 12 months (AIDS.gov). That ban existed for 30 years. Because fear. The parallels that you have drawn are shockingly similar. It is definitely fair to suggest that Smith is being critical of the public reaction to HIV/AIDS – she exemplifies how the first instinct is to divide and marginalize. I think that Smith’s novel has a lot to contribute in regards to critiquing modern society, but you both showed great analytic and close reading skills by finding so many comparable elements between HIV/AIDS and DF. Thanks for your insights!

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  12. Yes, I think that Orleans is being critical about the way people reacted to those infected with HIV/AIDS. Homosexual individuals are an oppressed group, and the privileged groups did not care about what happened to them. This is seen by, not only how poorly those infected with AIDS were being treated, but by how little research was being done to cure and treat AIDS. This is similar to the Delta Fever, since the institute and the Outer States was doing little to find a cure. Daniel is one person trying to save those with the Fever, only because it killed his brother. People care about AIDS when it affected the ‘innocent’, such as heterosexual women and children. This is the same with how Daniel became concerned about the Fever. His brother was an innocent person that was killed by a dirty disease. Daniel did not seem too concerned about those living in the Delta before it affected someone he loved.

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  13. This was a really great observation! I hadn’t even thought about that while reading the book, but it definitely makes sense now that I think about it. The taboo that is connected with AIDS and the way in which people, especially during the 1980s were affected by the disease are generally relatable to the novel. However, I am not entirely informed on the way AIDS or HIV could be transmitted to other people, do they have to ‘connect’ through blood or could it also be transmitted in other ways? Something I did find interesting while reading the book was the fact that Enola still turned out to be ‘clean’ of the fever in the end. Although Fen was not actively sick, she still carried the fever, and it is noteworthy that the baby was not ‘born’ with the fever, even though her mother was infected. Anyway, the way you guys related the Delta Fever to AIDS and HIV really opened my eyes and provided me with a different perception of the meaning of the novel, so that was really nice 🙂

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  14. I really enjoyed reading this perspective of Orleans, for it creates an exceptionally interesting reason behind the concept of Smith’s dystopia. Having read this post, it is clear that there are many overlapping qualities between the Delta Fever and that of HIV/AIDS, which intrigued me greatly as it not something I had considered before. Although it could be argued that DF is simply a fictional disease used as a catalyst for the plots of the novel, the links between DF and HIV you make are particularly compelling, especially in your argument about f paralleling the virus to the gay population in the early 1980s. If so, then this creates another layer for the novel, which places it in the position of social critique; this novel is, therefore, more than just a young adult dystopian fiction novel, written purely for entertainment. If Smith is drawing parallels between HIV/AIDS and DF then critiques on the racism, prejudice and treatment towards both black individuals, and homosexuals are brought into the context of this novel. Segregated and separated by their blood types within the Delta, much like the division of those suffering from HIV/AIDS and those not, the clear divide makes manifest the evidence of racism within this dystopia, which echoes that of the racism and prejudice towards the gay population in the 1980’s. Through your analysis of Orleans, the significance of intersectionality and contemporary relevance is made explicit, as is the importance of reading and applying YA dystopian fiction to real life social problems.

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