It’s summer, 1984, in blue-collar Swaffham, Massachusetts. Mel is thirteen, drinking a Slush Puppie at the drugstore, when she hears a voice, ‘deep and movie-star dramatic, like Lauren Bacall’: Sylvia.
What follows is a story of transgender awakening. Sylvia’s shameless swagger and tough-girl trans femininity is an affront to the Swaffham locals, and her presence triggers hatred and, ultimately, violence. But it is also a catalyst for Mel. Through her friendship with Sylvia, Mel comes to realise that not only is there a world beyond Swaffham, there are other ways of being, free from the class and gender roles embodied by her cruel, vulnerable mother Irene or her best friend, the troubled Jules.
Narrating this blistering coming-of-age tale from the present day is Max – formerly Mel, long since transitioned – who finds himself back in Swaffham while on leave from his job for defying speech codes around trans identity.
In prose rich with allusions to Carson McCullers, Jan Morris and Patti Smith, Some Strange Music Draws Me In is a compassionate, gripping and emotionally charged narrative. In focusing on the pre-transition subject, Griffin Hansbury explores the dangerous forces they often must escape to survive.
‘This gorgeous, propulsive novel is filled with beauty and danger, youth and wisdom and the life-saving lifelines of counterculture. With writing so tense and honest and real, I recognised this place and these people deeply, and felt them all in my heart long after the book was finished.’ Michelle Tea
‘Some Strange Music Draws Me In is luminous, propulsive, tender, and full of light. 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
‘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 inter-generational queer care, about how even with a clean getaway we nurse our wounded pasts . . . a book filled with compassion.’ McKenzie Wark