“The Set Up: A Testimony” by Carl–Be Who You Are



Carl. “The Set Up: A Testimony by Carl, The Living Affected Corporation, 2011.

Be Who You Are

Amos Lassen

I have been helping a friend get his book ready and I want to share some things about it. Carl is an African American gay male who is HIV positive. His life this far has been a journey and now he is sharing it with us and telling us as he says in the last line, “bitch, you better live!” Carl has lived and his life has been full of happenings that many of us could probably not be able to deal with. He gives us important advice in that he tells us not only to live but to be who we are and he does this by taking us on a walk through his life. He exposes himself much like putting him on a glass slide and under the lens of a microscope. He has loved and lost and loved again; he suffered the inhumanity of male rape and was used. To many his life may seem surreal and we wonder how he had the strength to keep on going.

Since many of us have lived through the period of AIDs or right afterwards, we are not easily shocked. As a person who lost so many friends to the epidemic, I find it almost impossible to hear an AIDS story that will shock me. However, the younger generation does not know what went on and so for that alone, this book is valuable. I have been there—to the clubs and discos, I have held the hand of a man who died while I did so and I have been to the sex parlors and seen a great deal. Even with that, Carl managed to get me look up and to say “WOW” more than once. His writing is graphic and I think that this in one of the strengths of the book. If you are easily shocked than this might not be the book for you or perhaps that is why it is even more so a book for you.

We get a unique point of view in that we see Carl’s life as he sees it—through the eyes of a black man but that does not make him any different in how he feels about love, religion, faith, loneliness and family. The difference is that others feel differently about Carl because he lives with what I call two strikes against him (in the eyes of society)—he is Black and he is gay. Raised Christian, faith was important to him but like many gay men, Carl found it hard to reconcile his sexuality with his God.

What happened to change Carl was being approached by a man who courted him using terms of endearment and flattery and we do so love to be flattered. He should have seen what was coming but his pride did not let him. The guy was handsome and assured with the gift for gab (and a gift for destruction plus he carried “the plague”). Carl thought he had found “the” man and he cared for him only to be left alone and infected. From this point Carl descended into depression and self-doubt and things got bad for him. Aside from now being HIV positive, Carl was diagnosed as bi-polar and this deeply affected him.

Carl’s story is one of self-doubt but it is also the story of rebirth and it deliberately ends on an unclear note so that we will be ready to read the rest in his next book.

There is so much I did not touch on here but I will eventually. I just want my readers to have an idea about what is coming. For me, the most important message that Carl gives us to be who we are because otherwise nothing has value.

At present we are working on a corrected second edition but if you would like to order the first edition, you can do so here:



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