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In the early 1990s, Heather McCalden lost both her parents to AIDS. She was seven when her father died, ten when she lost her mother. Raised by her grandmother, Nivia, she grew up in Los Angeles, also known as ground zero for the virus and its destruction.


Years later, she begins researching online the history of HIV as a way to deal with her loss, which leads her to the unexpected realization that the AIDS crisis and the internet developed on parallel timelines. By accumulating whatever fragments she could about both phenomena--images, anecdotes, and scientific entries--alongside her own personal history, McCalden forms a synaptic journey of what happened to her family, one that leads to an equally unexpected discovery about who her parents might have been.


Entwining this personal search with a wider cultural narrative of what the virus and virality mean in our times--interrogating what it means to "go viral" in an era of explosive biochemical and virtual contagion-- The Observable Universe is at once a history of our viral culture and a prismatic account of grief in the internet age.

Observable Universe

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