Through these resonances, Schulman suggests the singular position of people with AIDS: they have been abandoned not only by American cultural and political institutions, but also by their parents and families.
Rat Bohemia, (21) which opens with the apocalyptic scenes that threatened to erupt in People's conclusion: not only the spread of AIDS, but also global agricultural blight, and locally exploding rates of homelessness and unemployment in New York. The immediacy of devastation seems to spark the emergence of Jewish historical and cultural inheritance more forcefully for Schulman and her characters. That inheritance plays an especially important role in protagonist Rita Mae Weems' desire to document the impact of AIDS on her Lower East Side community; moreover, her childhood experiences also mirror Schulman's own, and provoke in Rita a similar sense of her role in the face of crisis. (22
A- Loosely connected around narrating a gay man's final months as he dies of AIDS, Rat Bohemia is told in four parts through the perspectives of three narrators: two lesbians, Rita and Killer, and the dying man himself, David. Although the three narratives converge around David's death, the novel is multifaceted, reflecting Schulman's many concerns and commitments; thus, it is also a meditation on coming out stories, lesbian fiction, urban gentrification, and the relationship of gay people with their families. Rita's observations frame the novel, and from the outset she develops provocative links between her witnessing of AIDS and her relationship with the Nazi holocaust as the child of a camp survivor.
B- Likewise, them hate when David assumes the narration of Rat Bohemia he observes the ways in which familial and national disdain for people with AIDS become each other's alibis for continued neglect. Following a lifetime of rejection and belittling by his parents, which culminates in his mother's inability to acknowledge the significance of AIDS, David concludes: "these reactions are so typical.... This is how America treats us. It's not AIDS that makes us. They hated us before because they could not control us. They could not make us be just like them. Now they're glad we're dying. They're uncomfortable about how they feel but really they're relieved. There's nothing on earth that could kill us quicker than parental indifference" (p. 87). Resisting the possibility of substantial distinctions between the two, David here links passive and active production of mass death to intention; thus, the family sets the scene for a national drift toward genocide.
C- Responses to AIDS and to homosexuality by parents throughout Schulman's work are especially significant as many of her characters' parents are themselves Jews who are either survivors of the Nazi holocaust or are immigrants who had barely missed being drawn (at least bodily) into its swath across Europe. While it would appear that the Judaism of parents and their immersion within one experience of genocide makes them the group that is best equipped to empathize with the threatened devastation of another marginal population, they constantly exhibit their inability to accept that other, ongoing projects of genocide exist. Such "insistence on primogeniture" of the Nazi holocaust results, Kramer claims, in a "growing inability to view any other similar tragedies as awful," and "to arouse equal public concern"
D- When Rita regains the novel's narration during David's funeral, Schulman links the historical concerns between people with AIDS and victims of earlier projects of extermination, and the centrality in both experiences of neglect by dominant or privileged people. David's father appears unexpectedly and makes a brief speech that illustrates to David's gathered friends his lack of understanding and empathy for his son's homosexuality. However," most of us were not surprised," Rita notes; "We're so used to it. We're so used to parents who show up at the