Before They Left Us

In Before They Left Us, Rosemary Davis explores the streets of 1970s San Francisco to find her identity, both as a woman and as an artist. In her firsthand account, she presents the people, politics and history surrounding her.  From the news of the International Hotel’s demolition, to the assassinations of her gay supervisor Harvey Milk and Democratic mayor George Moscone, to the onset of AIDS, Before They Left Us reveals one young woman’s leap from a blue-collar Catholic neighborhood in Milwaukee to California’s gay Main Street – the Castro.

The haunting stories in the memoir Before They Left Us capture the last crazy days of disco and move us into the onset of AIDS. Rosemary Davis illustrates the life stories of one a generation soon to be lost and describes her journey into a community that helped her blossom as a friend, sister, artist, activist and witness.

"With beautiful and unsparing prose, Rosemary Davis provides intricate well-composed snapshots documenting life and love before and after HIV descended upon her life and the lives of so many. Her memoir is a tribute to the trauma of a generation and a reminder to pay attention, to really pay attention, to the moments of our lives and the influence social forces have on our ability to live, love, and persevere."

      Beth Zemsky, MAEd, LICSW, founding director of the GBLT programs office at the University of Minnesota and former co-chair of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Board of Directors

"Before they Left Us is a potent reminder that certain periods of our lives mark us forever. The scars from losses of those years from HIV/AIDS have not even begun to heal. For many, remembering is the most pressing of endeavors."

       Benjamin Heim Shepard, PhD, author of White Nights and Ascending Shadows: An Oral History of the San Francisco HIV Epidemic and Illuminations on Market Street

"Rosemary Davis's Before They Left Us is an emotional roller coaster ride. We experience the exuberance and carefree life of a young woman from the Midwest who finds herself immersed in the Disneyland of gay culture.  She takes us to San Francisco during the frenzied years before AIDS relentlessly invaded the community.  Davis's journey relives the joy, fear, pain, anger, and the sadness all wrapped up in the AIDS epidemic.  For the survivors, it's a difficult revisit.  For everyone who picks up the book, it's a first-person glimpse into a world now gone.  Gone, but not forgotten. And forever cherished."

      Lorraine Teel, executive director of the Minnesota AIDS Project, 1990 - 2011

"In this poignant, honest, and loving memoir, Rosemary Davis vividly captures San Francisco's Castro in the 1970s. Before They Left Us is a beautiful memorial to a place and time that changed the gay community forever."

        Kevin Winge, MPA, author of Never Give Up: Vignettes from Sub-Saharan Africa in the Age of AIDS and former executive director of San Francisco's Project Open Hand and Open Arms of Minnesota.


"Davis offers a poetic and vivid memorial to the San Francisco Gay Community, as well as and the life she escaped in the Midwest to reach it. This memoir is a roller coaster ride through the HIV/AIDS years that decimated a generation. Gorgeously written and haunting, this book should be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the AIDS epidemic and the redemptive power of friendship."
        Eric Hoffer Book Awards Project, posted to U.S. Book Review 

Readings held for Before They Left Us

Day Block – Downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota

Subtext Books – Downtown St. Paul, Minnesota

The Reader’s Loft Bookstore – Green Bay, Wisconsin

A Room of One’s Own – Madison, Wisconsin

Book Cellar – Chicago, Illinois

Blue Harbor Writing Center – St. Paul, Minnesota

Birchbark Books (Bockley Gallery) – Minneapolis, Minnesota

Voyageur Books – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Book Passage – Ferry Building, San Francisco, California





Rosemary Ann Davis
   Writer, Photographer

              Hardcover, paperbacks and e-books available:,, 

The author is available for ZOOM readings and/or Q&A sessions.