Critics are quivering with adulation:
Giving it Raw is the least self-indulgent ‘nobody’ memoir I’ve ever read. Honest, captivating, beautifully-written and without offering any answers or advice. It’s dirty without being gratuitous, raw without being raunchy (not that there’s anything wrong with being raunchy), and vulnerable without being pathetic. It might scare some people to know that this is anybody’s story and yet it is delightful in being Ibáñez-Carrasco’s particular story. ‘Giving it Raw’ will enrich your understanding of latinidad, the HIV movement, and immigration. It should also complicate your feelings about ‘safer sex,’ queerness and love.
author of Queer Migration Politics
So much about Giving It Raw: Nearly 30 Years with HIV is raw — the sex, the emotions, the loss — that there are moments you want to move away from the unflinching honesty, close the book not so you can avoid his frank and deliciously graphic recollections of sexual encounters over the last several decades as a gay poz man, but so you too don’t find yourself remembering the same visceral loss and haunting loneliness, the moment in time where despair and shame and hedonism were the only antidotes to the bodies piling up around us. Shedding that shame, in part becoming the man he is through BDSM, fetishes, and rough trade, is what Ibáñez-Carrasco writes of so eloquently (the title being a clear nod to this past and present), but this is not a book about sex, not a work of erotica. It’s a tragicomic confessional, a history lesson, and an intellectual treatise on sex, love, family, and a virus that’s killing fewer but still too many — and it’s a breathtaking one at that.
editor at large, The Advocate magazine, editor in chief of HIV Plus magazine, and author of the memoir, Queerly Beloved: A Love Story Across Genders
Giving It Raw is no subtle Huron County WASP water colour, but rather a rich ethnographic fresco of our spaces from taxis to transit lines to bathhouses, and of our urban flora and fauna from sex pigs to kamikaze teen skateboarders. And as with the majority of Canadians in the 21st century, there are flashbacks or interludes with an entirely different grain and lighting set in the other place, the place of roots and origins—remembered first hand or second or third. Francisco’s cutaways to his Alzheimer-touched mother in the streets and institutions of Santiago are one of the most moving vignettes in his memoir. If you glance one or two moments that may seem glib or insider-ish, they are well made up for by sudden flashes of brilliance and insight that I find truly wise like the sense of friendship as affectionate co-dependency.
So what makes this tragicomic story special?
“It is what is known as a ‘nobody memoir,'” he explains. “Just like you and me, no one famous, I wrap passages of my life in topics that we can all identify with. There is a whole genre of ‘too much information’ out there, from telling about our weight to our larger peccadilloes. Confessionals, memoirs and autopathographies have a purpose and an audience.
We want to know that what is happening to us, what is happening to many others, what is going on in the life of one HIV-positive gay man, what is making him feel alone and guilty and shameful, is actually happening to many HIV-positive gay men of all ages. There is something in Giving It Raw that will resonate within you like a cathedral bell.
Giving It Raw reads like poetry. Whether describing childhood poverty in 1960s Santiago or sexual excess in 1980s Vancouver, Francisco Ibáñez-Carrasco creates a world at once awash in nostalgia and rooted in hard-won wisdom. The result is a kind of gritty romance, told in a style that’s lilting, thought-provoking, and even a little naughty.
Visceral and brutally honest, at turns slapstick and erudite, and redolent of sweat, lube, and leather, the book offers the highlights (and lowlights) of the 52-year-old writer’s nearly three decades of living with HIV, then AIDS.