The hidden history of a vulnerable gay man whose life and death were turned into tabloid fodder.
In the early 1990s, eight people living in a small conservative Florida town alleged that Dr. David Acer, their dentist, infected them with HIV. David’s gayness, along with his sickly appearance from his own AIDS-related illness, made him the perfect scapegoat and victim of mob mentality. In these early years of the AIDS epidemic, when transmission was little understood, and homophobia rampant, people like David were villainized. Accuser Kimberly Bergalis landed a People magazine cover story, while others went on talk shows and made front page news.
With a poet’s eulogistic and psychological intensity, Steven Reigns recovers the life and death of this man who also stands in for so many lives destroyed not only by HIV, but a diseased society that used stigma against the most vulnerable. It’s impossible not to make connections between this story and how the twenty-first century pandemic has also been defined by medical misinformation and cultural bias.
Inspired by years of investigative research into the lives of David and those who denounced him, Reigns has stitched together a hauntingly poetic narrative that retraces an American history, questioning the fervor of his accusers, and recuperating a gay life previously shrouded in secrecy and shame.
“Much too long, suffering has been part of our collective queer legacy. We weather the storm of insult to character and seemingly irreconcilable injustice in tandem with the hope that the arc of time will bend towards justice; our time is now. A Quilt for David is a posthumous journal of vindication.”–Brontez Purnell, author of 100 Boyfriends
“A stunning homage to people with AIDS.”–Sarah Schulman, author of Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993
“I found this an incredibly moving book. Reigns deals in hard truths, revisioning one man’s life and death, and our collective queer history.”–Justin Torres, author of We the Animals
“A Quilt for David is amazing and so powerful, filled with anger and frustration . . . It’s an unforgettable book.”–Marie Cloutier, Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY
“Told in short, occasionally haiku-like entries, Reigns has done what literature should: put the reader into the mind, the suffering, of another human being.”–Andrew Holleran, author of Chronicle of a Plague, Revisited
“Steven Reigns lifts David Acer thirty years after his death to show the naked cost of violent, unexamined public opinion around the catastrophe of AIDS. This poetry masterfully documents the tangle of hatred and lies haunting a generation of survivors. I am often grateful for what poems give to me, most especially the ones in this book.”–CAConrad, author of AMANDA PARADISE: Resurrect Extinct Vibration
“This writing is energetic, alive, and uncensored. Through poetry and prose we glean a deep understanding of a life misunderstood and mischaracterized. Reigns goes to the mat to find out what really happened, and with his expert pacing we’re right there with him.”—Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones
“One of the most important roles a poet can assume is that of emotional historian. Reigns certainly understands that notion in this necessary and genre-bending book.”–Richard Blanco, 2013 Presidential Inaugural Poet, author of How to Love a Country
Praise for Steven Reigns's A Quilt for David
"This series of prose poems focuses on a tragic episode from the height of the AIDS crisis when a gay dentist became the victim of mob panic and homophobia gone wild. Reigns approaches the subject from multiple angles, which makes for a thought-provoking read. Trigger warning: could make you very sad and/or angry."–Fabulosa Books in the San Francisco Bay Times
"Reigns' book has made me see how often poetry has searched for some kind of 'poetic justice' as it interrogates and engages with history and injustice. Oscar Wilde finally delivers his verdict in The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Allen Ginberg's Howl pleads the case for Carl Solomon and a generation. Stephen Vincent Benét's John Brown's Body puts the Civil War in grim perspective, and Claudia Rankine's Citizen indicts American racism. This is pretty powerful company to keep . . ."–Tim Miller, The Gay and Lesbian Review
"Reigns doesn't take poetic license with the material. Instead, in taut prose, with a poet's eye for details, he relays the facts of the events that transpired and lets us make sense of them. Everyone, it seems, had something to hide."–Michael Quinn, Gertrude Press
"It's an important story full of twists and turns that reveal deep truths about the ingrained biases and assumptions that impact decision-making – especially relevant today because of COVID – whether it's to mask, get vaccinated, have unprotected sex or put our trust in a particular doctor or other professional. Reigns' explores all of these themes in a series of emotionally rich poems that together form an elegiac tribute to life, death and honor."–Eleanor Bader, The Indypendent, NYC
"This biography/poetry mashup is an essential read for Queer health activists."–Adrian Shanker, editor, Bodies and Barriers: Queer Activists on Health
"[A] breathtaking collection. . . . A Quilt for David is a memorial to victims of the AIDS epidemic that swept up hundreds of thousands of lives in the last forty years, in the same scary way the COVID pandemic has killed so many people in 2020."–Charles Rammelkamp, The Compulsive Reader
"Steven Reigns compassionately and with deftness tells the story of David Acer and those whose stories will forever be tied with his. A Quilt For David is a powerful, poetic, and heartwrenching examination of the dark ages of the AIDS crisis told with penetrating insight."–Casey Mensing, The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, CA
"Like so many of us born into the Age of AIDS, who saw the epidemic from childhood and grew up in a world forever changed by loss, Reigns is searching for the stories of our ancestors."–Justin Elizabeth Sayre, author of From Gay to Z: A Queer Compendium
"This book doesn't only echo our current political moment, it dissects it as it's being born."–Jonathan D. Katz, activist and writer
"With compassion and perspicacity, A Quilt for David unflinchingly investigates a sordid episode in homophobic history. The result is at once enraging, enlightening, shocking, and heartbreaking. Even people who don't read poetry or history will find it compelling."–Alvin Orloff, Dog Eared Books, San Francisco, CA
Praise for Steven Reigns
"Reigns is a devoted and deeply studied writer. The poetry that emerges from his devotion is autobiographical, accessible, and emotionally bold. His pages bare and share many uncomfortable and inconvenient truths."–Richard Blanco, author of How to Love a Country