Some Strange Music Draws Me In: A Novel (Hardcover)
I adored this propulsive, emotionally complex fiction debut from Griffin Hansbury.
Some Strange Music Draws Me In is a Trans coming-of-age literary novel set over one blue collar summer in 1984 Massachusetts. It archives the violence we survive before we even know to call it violence. Hansbury handles complexity with grace, giving his wide cast of characters the respect of full and nuanced selves -- such nuance and compassion that it often brought me to tears. Hansbury's emotional dexterity within his characters is vivid, realistically complex, and fully rendered. With this debut, Hansbury offers to the wider literary canon a Trans narrative that is realistic and honest about the violence and hope of surviving while queer.
This book is for readers of Anthony Veasna So, Justin Torres, Tommy Orange and Bryan Washington and positions Hansbury as a contender as a new literary darling. I will read any characters Griffin Hansbury brings into being next.
This book is for anyone who wants to fall in love many, many times and have their heart broken again and again by characters and realities that are rendered so fully you could swear they were plucked from your own memory.— FAWZY
From an award-winning author, this provocative novel tells an emotionally gripping story about friendship, family, and transgender awakening in a working-class American town.
It’s the summer of 1984 in Swaffham, Massachusetts, when Mel (short for Melanie) meets Sylvia, a tough-as-nails trans woman whose shameless swagger inspires Mel’s dawning self-awareness. But Sylvia’s presence sparks fury among her neighbors and throws Mel into conflict with her mother and best friend. Decades later, in 2019, Max (formerly Mel) is on probation from his teaching job for, ironically, defying speech codes around trans identity. Back in Swaffham, he must navigate life as part of a fractured family and face his own role in the disasters of the past.
Populated by a cast of unforgettable characters, Some Strange Music Draws Me In is a propulsive page turner about multiple electrifying relationships—between a working-class mother and her queer child, between a trans man and his right-wing sister, and between a teenager and her troubled best friend. Griffin Hansbury, in elegant, arresting, and fearless prose, dares to explore taboos around gender and class as he offers a deeply moving portrait of friendship, family, and a girlhood lived sideways. A timely and captivating narrative of self-realization amid the everyday violence of small-town intolerance, Some Strange Music Draws Me In builds to an explosive conclusion, illuminating the unexpected ways that difference can provide a ticket to liberation.
About the Author
Griffin Hansbury is the author of Vanishing New York and Feral City (as Jeremiah Moss). A Pushcart Prize winner and Lambda Literary Award finalist, his writing has appeared in several publications, including n+1, the New York Times, and the New Yorker and Paris Review online. A trailblazer in the field of psychoanalysis, he was the first analyst to practice and publish as openly transgender. He lives in Manhattan.
This is a touchstone LGBTQIA+ coming of age novel containing superbly drawn characters, a brilliant story, and knowing prose that constantly seeks to complicate simplistic narratives around gender, sexuality, and class.
— Alexander Moran - Booklist (starred review)
This gorgeous, propulsive novel is filled with beauty and danger, youth and wisdom, and the lifesaving lifelines of counterculture. With writing so tense and honest and real, I recognized this place and these people deeply, and felt them all in my heart long after the book was finished.
— Michelle Tea, author of Knocking Myself Up
Some Strange Music Draws Me In is luminous, propulsive, tender.… Griffin Hansbury’s prose is both scathing and soulful, delivered with care and grace and aplomb. This novel’s warmth is palpable, and Hansbury has crafted a truly rare thing—a gift and a guide.
— Bryan Washington, author of Family Meal, Memorial, and Lot
Some Strange Music Draws Me In is a story of how latent queerness can point toward the exit from poverty and despair. It’s about intergenerational queer care, about how even with a clean getaway we nurse our wounded pasts.… [A] book filled with compassion.
— McKenzie Wark, author of Love and Money, Sex and Death
God damn I loved this book. It’s tough and sweet and smart about the places we come from and how we fight and flail to discover ourselves inside them. Griffin Hansbury has achingly captured the miracle of queer generations seeing and saving each other, without hiding the real struggle to connect across generations, our different times and traumas. A gorgeous novel readers will absolutely live inside of. I will be thinking about Max and Sylvia for a long time, they are now so dear to me.
— CJ Hauser, author of The Crane Wife and Family of Origin
This funny, defiant, and passionate novel will make you want to play Patti Smith’s "Horses" at full volume as a soundtrack while you’re still reading. Some Strange Music Draws Me In is the coming-of-age, reckoning-with-gender story we have all needed for decades, the kind that can change and save your life.
— James Hannaham, author of Didn't Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta
Some Strange Music Draws Me In is a beautiful exploration of adolescence and aging. Filled with the lingering echoes of a former self, Hansbury has created a rich portrayal of moving forward in all of life’s messy glory while wrangling with a painful past. Max and Mel will leave you reeling with emotion, transformed and hopeful. Like a good song, this is a novel that will play on your mind for years to come, humming brightly and freely.
— Andrés N. Ordorica, author of How We Named the Stars