cover image Some Strange Music Draws Me In

Some Strange Music Draws Me In

Griffin Hansbury. Norton, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-324-05079-7

A trans man reckons with a younger generation’s attitudes toward gender while reflecting on his difficult childhood as a girl in the incisive latest from Hansbury, a psychoanalyst and blogger best known for Vanishing New York under the pseudonym Jeremiah Moss. Massachusetts private school teacher Max Pulaski is on probationary leave after one of his wealthy cisgender students complained he was insensitive to gender differences (“When did fragility become desirable?” he narrates). A series of flashbacks portray Max at 13 in 1984, when, as a girl named Mel, she becomes fixated on Sylvia, a trans woman who ran away to New York City when she was about the same age and now faces bigotry upon her return to their small Massachusetts town. As Mel latches onto Sylvia, whose indeterminate age is somewhere in the “big-sister zone,” she wrestles with her gender identity. The 1984 plot builds to an explosive climax involving a violent attack on Sylvia, and Hansbury details its lingering impact on Max in sharp, perceptive prose (“In one body or the other, girl or man, I am getting it wrong. But I’m not supposed to let my anger show”). There are no easy answers in Hansbury’s bracing narrative. (Mar.)