Blood and Steel

Ryan White, the AIDS Crisis and Deindustrialization in Kokomo, Indiana


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About the Book

Set in the 1980s against a backdrop of the AIDS crisis, deindustrialization and the Reagan era, this book tells the story of one individual’s defiant struggle against his community—the city of Kokomo, Indiana. At the same time as teenage AIDS patient Ryan White bravely fought against the intolerance of his hometown to attend public school, one of Kokomo’s largest employers, Continental Steel, filed for bankruptcy, significantly raising the stakes of the fight for the city’s livelihood and national image. This book tells the story of a fearful time in our recent history, as people in the heartland endured massive layoffs, coped with a lethal new disease and discovered a legacy of toxic waste. Now, some 30 years after Ryan White’s death, this book offers a fuller accounting of the challenges that one city reckoned with during this tumultuous period.

About the Author(s)

Ruth D. Reichard is a historian and an attorney. She lives in New York.

Bibliographic Details

Ruth D. Reichard

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 250
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8489-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4264-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface 1
1. Steel, Blood and Ryan White, 1896–1980: Capital and Commodification 15
2. Russian Roulette, 1980–1984 33
3. “Somewhere, there’s going to be that first student with AIDS wanting to go to school”: 1985 and the Question of Public Knowledge 52
4. Four Months in a Blast Furnace: December 1985–March 1986 87
5. “He’s the good guy, and I’m the bad guy”: February 1986–May 1987 113
6. “I am ashamed to admit that I even live here!”: Stigma and Transformation, 1987–1990 143
7. Blood, Steel and Ryan White: Erasure and Visibility, 1990–2020 169
Chapter Notes 193
Bibliography 221
Index 231

Book Reviews & Awards

• Finalist for Best Nonfiction Book, Indiana Authors Awards 2022

• “Reichard employs a new angle to unpack Ryan’s struggle, by contextualizing it against the economic backdrop of American deindustrialization during these years. … Her angle is novel, yet strikingly convincing. Reichard astutely recognizes a human tendency to reject and oppose that which further threatens stability, even at the cost of victimizing innocent individuals, reminding us that in an interconnected world, singular events can rarely be divorced from wider contextual factors. In Blood and Steel Reichard raises the question of the ethical obligation we all hold to each other as fellow human beings—whether it be the transparency of corporations prioritizing profit over livelihoods, or the treatment of sick individuals by the communities that should have rallied to support them. …comprehensive… Reichard makes an impressive and commendable effort to prevent Ryan from being engulfed by his circumstances and identity as a diseased individual, maintaining a delicate balance between the objective reporting of historical events, and the treatment of Ryan as a real person deserving of compassion. …if there is anything to take away from Blood and Steel, it is that we must not allow our fear to nurture hostility towards our neighbors. Just as Ryan later found peace in a new community, our actions should seek to build a world unified by acceptance and solidarity.”—The Lancet

• “Writing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Reichard has produced an extremely relevant history that echoes many events of the last two years…solid…a fascinating read…a significant contribution.”—H-Net Reviews