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Teacher Lesson Return to "A Sad Silence"
A Sad Silence
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Lesson for "A Sad Silence"

Losing an Aunt to AIDS

The writer, in “A Sad Silence,” is left out of a family secret: her beloved aunt has AIDS. It’s not until she learns about AIDS in school that the writer really understands the seriousness of the disease. But her aunt passes away without ever speaking to the writer about her illness. In a sidebar on the same page, “Too Afraid to Trust,” the writer describes how her aunt’s death has affected her attitudes toward sexual intimacy and trust.

Prompts for discussion and/or writing:

—The writer is the only one in her family who doesn’t know her aunt has AIDS. Has your family ever kept a secret from you? What was the secret, and why did your family not tell you the truth? How did you feel about being kept in the dark?

—Has a family member ever had a serious illness? How did the family deal with it? How did the experience affect you?

—After the writer finds out about her aunt’s illness, the aunt never discusses it with the writer. Why do you think the aunt didn’t open up to her? Have you ever been in a similar situation, where a family member or friend didn’t want to talk about something difficult in her life? Did the person eventually open up to you?

—Have you ever known someone who has HIV or AIDS? How was your experience similar to or different from the writer’s?

—After her aunt’s death, the writer doesn’t feel like dating or having sex, because she feels she can’t trust anyone. What is your reaction to this? Have you ever felt the same way? What caused you to feel that way?

—Even after she gets married someday, the writer doesn’t think she’ll be able to trust her husband. Do you think her fear is reasonable? Why or why not?
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