The story

Jacket synopsis:

After a close brush with suicide John Shelby returns to the University of Colorado in 1970, determined to be Hanna. She knows her life depends on passing; too many people think of transsexuals as despicable perverts.

Despite her fears, things go smoothly. She enjoys her classes, finds friends, and revels in feeling feminine. Then, in one short moment of carelessness, her life is irrevocably changed beyond anything she’d imagined. Now she has to find what she lost if she is to know who she is – and what she can accomplish.

Hanna’s Ascent takes the reader into a world of bigotry, trauma, and love in the spirit of Where the Crawdads Sing. From an odyssey of rejection and belonging, recounted in the languages of conflicting identities, bodies, and cultures, comes a message of hope.


I haven’t employed a marketing professional to write this, as is probably obvious, but it will give you an idea at least! The genre is somewhere between literary and upmarket women’s fiction. It’s literary in the sense that there is a lot of metaphor, but the language is not especially lofty; it’s intended to be readable and enjoyable. And while gender identity issues are absolutely central to it, Hanna’s story is an important sense universal for anyone experiencing the violence of bigotry.

It is not, for better or worse, a coming of age story (though Hanna does come of age in its course – twice!). It is set in an era in which the word “transgender” (or transsexual) was scarcely known to the public, and indeed only to a relatively small number of psychologists. But I hope that a perspective on this history may be helpful to those who still today grapple with much of the same misunderstanding, denigration, and outright hatred.

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