I requested a review copy of Nirvana is Here by Aaron Hamburger (Three Rooms Press, 2019) and was thrilled when it arrived in my mailbox. The cover art is brilliant and loudly colorful, and it is among the first queer novels I’ve read. Warning: there will be spoilers in this review. If you don’t want any plot details, just know that I highly recommend this book to all who enjoy realistic fiction, Bildungsroman stories, and honest portrayals of queer relationships and romantic decisions.
Nirvana is Here is set in “the segregated suburbs of Detroit during the 1990s”, during the years when Nirvana achieved fame and rocked the country. The story is formatted in a now / then unveiling, where you get one chapter of current events followed by a much longer section detailing chronological events in Ari Silverman’s childhood and teen years. Within the first fifty pages, we learn that Ari was sexually assaulted repeatedly by a classmate and neighbor, and this early trauma shaped his subsequent school-age years. Hamburger fantastically presents the emotional and mental consequences of such a betrayal and depicts the failure of Ari’s religious community to take the assaults seriously, as is the case in so many real-world religious communities. The other significant story arc follows Ari in his attempts to become closer to his high school crush and eventual best friend, a heartwarming and bittersweet relationship that readers of all sexual identities can relate to.
Most moving is the growth of Ari and the clean weaving of his past horrors into an informative and mature handling of the awkward situation he finds himself in as an adult: his ex-husband, a professor at the university they both work at, is accused of sexual misconduct by a student, and Ari is on the decision board. Both timely and refreshing in its complexity, Nirvana is Here gets to the heart of matters and revels in the glory of accepting one’s against-the-grain identity.
Nirvana is Here is available from Three Rooms Press or your local bookseller for $16 or your local library for free! Despite occasional typos and missing words, I wholeheartedly recommend this book. Thank you again to Three Rooms Press for the review copy. Well done, Aaron Hamburger.
The quoted section in this article refers to the Nirvana is Here press release.