New Release: A Hard Silence by Melanie Brooks


Congratulations to Melanie Brooks and Vine Leaves Press on the release of A Hard Silence, a memoir that gives readers an intimate glimpse into the author's memories of coping with the tragedy of her father's illness and enduring the loneliness and isolation of not being able to speak.

★★★★★ "Melanie Brooks is that rare writer who can delve as deeply into the world of ideas as she can the pitted terrain of the human heart." ~Andre Dubus III, author of Gone So Long

A Hard Silence by Melanie Brooks

NEW RELEASE: September 12, 2023
Genre: Memoir / Creative Nonfiction
Paperback: $17.99
Ebook: $6.49  

In the mid 1980s, Canada's worst public health disaster was unfolding. Catastrophic mismanagement of the country's blood supply allowed contaminated blood to be knowingly distributed nationwide, infecting close to two thousand Canadians with HIV. Among them was Melanie Brooks's surgeon father who, after receiving a blood transfusion during open-heart surgery in 1985, learned he was HIV positive.

At a time when HIV/AIDS was widely misunderstood and public perception was shaped by fear, prejudice, and homophobia, victims of the disease faced ostracism and persecution. Afraid of this stigma and wanting to protect his family, Melanie's father decided his illness would be a secret. A secret they'd all have to keep. They did not know that her father would live past that first year, but he did. And for ten years before his death in 1995, from the time she was thirteen until she was twenty-three, Melanie's family lived in the shadow of AIDS. She carried the weight of the uncertain trajectory of her father’s health and the heartbreaking anticipation of impending loss silently and alone. It became a way of life.

A Hard Silence is an intimate glimpse into Melanie's memories of coping with the tragedy of her father's illness and enduring the loneliness and isolation of not being able to speak. With candor and vulnerability, Melanie opens her grief wounds and brings her reader inside her journey, twenty years after her father died, to finally understand the consequences of her family's silence, to interrogate the roots of stigma and discrimination responsible for the ongoing secret-keeping, and to show how she's now learned to be authentic.

Praise for A Hard Silence
★★★★★ "A book with a universal message of love, and the courage every single one of us needs to navigate our way to personal, familial, and communal healing." ~Michael Patrick MacDonald, author of All Souls

~★★★★★ "Those of us whose family members were contaminated by HIV/AIDS around the same time shared her feelings, the agony of family secrecy and the fear of stigmatization." ~Vic Parsons, author of Bad Blood: The Unspeakable Truth

★★★★★ “Fills me with a sense of urgency, gratitude, and awe.” ~Abigail Thomas, author of Still Life

★★★★★ “This beautifully rendered memoir asks important questions about the complexities of loss and grief, the roots of stigma and shame, and the courage necessary to endure that resonate in this new and unfortunate age of social exclusion.” ~Richard Blanco, author of The Prince of los Cocuyos

★★★★★ “A vivid and thoughtful exploration of a daughter’s grief for her father, and a family’s unwanted place in history, A Hard Silence movingly depicts the long toll of stigma and the healing power of words.” ~Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, author of The Fact of a Body

★★★★★ “A profound and riveting journey through shame and grief, A Hard Silence is, quite simply, unforgettable.” ~Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys

★★★★★ “In this important and profound narrative, Brooks chronicles what gets us all through times of grief: love, empathy, even vulnerability. And, most importantly, nurturing a sense of wholeness, even as it slips from us.” ~Sue William Silverman, author of How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences 

About the Author
Melanie Brooks is the author of Writing Hard Stories: Celebrated Memoirists Who Shaped Art from Trauma (Beacon Press, 2017). She teaches professional writing at Northeastern University, narrative medicine in the MFA program at Bay Path University in Massachusetts, and creative writing at Nashua Community College in New Hampshire. She earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast writing program. Her work has been published in Psychology Today, The HuffPost, Yankee Magazine, the Washington Post, Ms. Magazine, Creative Nonfiction, and other notable publications. Though her Canadian roots run deep, she lives in New Hampshire with her husband, two children (when they are home from college), and two Labs.

Learn more at
About the Publisher
Vine Leaves Press likes to blur the line between commercial and experimental works. They publish book-length vignette collections, writing reference books, short story collections, memoir/autobiography, and character-driven novels with a literary bent.​ Subscribe to the Vine Leaves Press newsletter to receive FREE advanced review copies of upcoming new releases, news about their authors and subscribers, and/or to read the monthly opinion column, SPILL IT! or a daily dose of 50-word stories. Learn more at

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