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Taking Turns: Stories from Hiv/AIDS Care Unit 371

(Graphic Medicine Book Series)

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  428 ratings  ·  80 reviews
In 1994, at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the United States, MK Czerwiec took her first nursing job, at Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, as part of the caregiving staff of HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371. Taking Turns pulls back the curtain on life in the ward.

A shining example of excellence in the treatment and care of patients, Unit 371 was a community for thousan
Paperback, 224 pages
Published March 15th 2017 by Penn State University Press
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Average rating 4.39  · 
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May 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Nancy by: John
Posted at Shelf Inflicted

Never have I been so moved by a graphic novel as I have with this account of M.K. Czerwiec’s career as a nurse in an HIV/AIDS care unit.

Her story begins in 1993, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, and before effective retroviral drugs existed. Though much of this story centers on patient treatment and interactions with other caregivers, there is a lot of thought-provoking exploration of living with a terminal disease, the fluid boundaries between caregiver and patient,
Matthew Noe
Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I hoped to write a more in-depth review - one that this book so deserves - but time is against me. I've read this through in full twice already and am still certain there is more to gain from further readings.

Part unique history, part memoir, if you don't find yourself tearing up at least twice, I'd be worried your tear ducts aren't working.
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-borrows
It's a hard read but a good read, the weight of the AIDS epidemic rests heavy on my heart but it helps to have beautiful history projects like this one to turn to.
Rod Brown
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
At first I was put off by the simplistic nature of the art, but as I started reading I simply stopped caring what it looked like as I became riveted by Czerwiec's words. She recounts her time on an HIV/AIDS unit in a Chicago hospital during the 1990s, giving her personal testimony and including elements from the oral histories she gathered from co-workers, patients and their families. It's heavy going, obviously, making me confront thoughts about death and dying that I usually prefer to avoid. I ...more
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Stunning and emotional graphic memoir that really does an amazing job at the historical aspects of HIV/AIDS. Loved the points about how caring and nursing changed because of this disease. Like, holy fuck, treat your patients like people.
Jill Meyer
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Taking Turns: Stories from HIV/AIDS Care Unit" is a graphic work by MK Czerwiec that describes her time working as a nurse in a dedicated AIDS unit at Illinois Masonic Hospital in Chicago. It is as much a story about the staff members and the volunteers as much as it is about the patients. The ward was most active during the years that an AIDS diagnosis meant certain death to those who contracted it. As the new protease inhibitors were developed in the mid-1990's, that death sentence was lessen ...more
Elizabeth A
Sep 24, 2019 rated it liked it
I recently read The Great Believers, and this graphic memoir was listed as recommended reading, so picked up a copy from my library.

This is a memoir of the author's time working as a nurse at at the Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, as part of the caregiving staff of HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371. At the height of the epidemic, amid all the hysteria and general awfulness of how infected people were treated, the staff of Care Unit 371 were a shining example of how to competently and humanely c
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you're like me, you'll go into this thinking, "I know this one (as in, this Graphic Medicine title) gets a lot of praise, but I'm not really as compelled by the HIV/AIDS story as much as, say, the Graphic Medicine titles on things like Cancer and Parkinson's, which my life has actually been touched by."

And you'll realize very quickly just how wrong you are.

This book had me nearly in tears multiple times. I was young when the AIDS epidemic caught the world by storm, and thus missed learning a
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was not an HIV nurse during the height of the epidemic, but I was a nurse. As we now know, all of us were HIV nurses, whether we knew it or not; the disease was far more pervasive than any of us had any idea was true.

M.K. Czerwiec was, in fact, a brand-new nurse at the height of the beginning of the mysterious new disease which swept through the gay community with a vicious, pinpoint precision that seemed almost predatory. She was in the center of it, in a ward specifically designated for thos
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
A beautiful, heartwrenching book that really honours the profession of nursing.
The art is quite simple but does the trick; the stories shared here are an important piece of history and I commend MK for the work she has done both as a nurse as well as an artist and storyteller.
Lisa Welch
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars rounded up. After reading about this book in the acknowledgments of The Great Believers, I put it on hold at the library immediately. I am finding myself drawn to the history of the AIDS crisis in Chicago, and how that played out differently for different people. This book provides another perspective (that of a nurse) as the crisis played out.
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics, memoir
A really well-done oral history/memoir in comic book format. I definitely cried.
Jenna Osborne
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
The first cases of AIDS began appearing in 1981. The disease, which at the beginning seemed to infect only gay men, was met with stony silence and active derision by our lords and overseers. Then-president Ronald Reagan refused to acknowledge the outbreak, though his staff and supporters spoke loud and clear. Pat Buchanan, his communications director said that AIDS was “nature’s revenge upon gay men”. Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority- one of Reagan’s staunchest financial backers- sta ...more
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
Originally published on my book blog,

Taking Turns is a memoir in graphic novel format from MK Czerwiec. She was one of the nurses caring for HIV / AIDS patients at Chicago’s Illinois Masonic Medical Center in the 1980s and 1990s. I found this book on Hoopla after reading The Great Believers. Rebecca Makkai, who wrote Believers, mentions Czerwiec’s book in her acknowledgments.

I thought it’d be interesting to see the same time period from a caregiver’s perspective, and to compa
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
At the end of The Great Believers , author Rebecca Makkai provides a bibliography of books she consulted and recommended to learn more about the AIDS crisis. Taking Turns was one of those books, providing a first-person look at the AIDS unit at Illinois Masonic Hospital. Actually, "first person" isn't completely accurate, as nurse M.K. Czerwiec brings the voices of other staff members (and volunteer Joel Hall, incidentally a famous Chicago choreographer). This is an important historical resou ...more
Derek Newman-Stille
M.K. Czerwiec helps to bring the history of the Queer community’s interactions with AIDS to new generations, letting us connect to aspects of our history not through the distant medium of history books that often bleed all of the emotion out of a historical event, but rather through her own personal experience with AIDS as a nurse who worked with people who were infected. In “Taking Turns”, Czerwiec shares her own story and how it touched multiple parts of the Queer community and the medical com ...more
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really liked this graphic novel. The art in many ways felt rudimentary, but it worked for her story. There were many panes with no dialogue where the simple style art made it feel all the more touching.

The one nit picky feeling that causes me to only give four stars was perhaps built on my expectations of what type of stories would be told- or maybe how they were told. The comic includes more details than I think I really needed, like the founding of the unit or why she became a nurse, etc. Th
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
i'm not a nurse but i did spend 5 years of my life counseling people in psychiatric crisis. doing that kind of work changes you. the world gets divided into people who understand and people who don't. you get addicted to the drama, the intensity, the chaos, the idea that the work you do is the most important. but it also depletes you. obviously, my story is way different from MK's but the way she tells it is so amazing. it's such an important part of our queer history, one that i th
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comix
Czerwiec spoke at my work conference a couple weeks ago on "graphic medicine" (using comics and graphic novels in health care), and I hopped on my library account to reserve this one during the presentation because it sounded so interesting. The art is untrained but still affecting, and I cried several times while reading this memoir of Czerwiec's years as a nurse on an HIV/AIDS ward in Chicago as it transitioned from mainly hospice care in the early 90s to maintenance care after the protease in ...more
Jenny Jaeckel
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another graphic memoir captures the heart and soul of a piece of history. Taking Turns follows MK, a nurse in an unorthodox care unit, Unit 317, of a hospital in Chicago in the 1990's, the height of the North American AIDS epidemic. In simple, straightforward drawings and prose, MK creates a portrait of this devastating time, during which a community came together with great bravery and compassion to respond to the epidemic. A very personal, yet universal, meditation on life and death, sometimes ...more
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful book. Read in about an hour, cried at least twice.
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
While the art is simple, this is an excellent graphic novel about how far we have come in treating an epidemic, one which was allowed to spiral out of control due to silence born from prejudice and hatred. A good reminder of how much has changed, even though we have so far to go.
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is beautiful. Teared up a few times.
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics
A very informative and important read. A fascinating and heart-rending look into a terrible crisis for the queer community.
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Amazing reconstruction of the height of the AIDS crisis's.
Dani Kass
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
I never expected a graphic novel about an AIDS ward to be uplifting, but this truly was. To have had a hospital where people were treated with such respect and love is something I can barely imagine, and something the world should really be striving for regularly. Czerwiec also did a fantastic job of breaking down how HIV works and the toll it took, along with how to handle grief. But somehow ,I came out of this with more positive than negative.

I really couldn't get into the art though. Just was
Gaia Amman
I really disliked the drawings in this beautiful, touching story narrating the HIV/AIDS epidemics from the standpoint of lesbian nurse MK.

A masterpiece and a piece of humanity everyone should read <3
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent #graphicmedicine title written by a nurse who worked on an AIDS ward in the 1990s.
Cook Memorial Public Library
A 2018 staff favorite recommended by Melissa. Check our catalog: ...more
Stephan Benzkofer
Feb 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This gripping graphic memoir by a nurse working at Illinois Masonic's HIV/AIDS care unit at the height of the AIDS epidemic in Chicago. Given Illinois Masonic's location, it is a story of a community caring for itself, of nurses and doctors watching their friends and neighbors waste away. It is powerful stuff. Sprinkled throughout are medical and science tidbits explaining the disease and the valuable work nurses do. I don't read many memoirs, let alone graphic memoirs, so I don't have much to c ...more
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