Author Playlists

Casey Plett’s Playlist for Her Story Collection “A Safe Girl to Love”

“Some of this playlist’s tunes are absolutely from past lives and they fucking rule, the tunes that is, not the lives, so stop listening to me and listen to this!”

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Casey Plett’s newly republished story collection A Safe Girl to Love showcases her masterful storytelling as well as her unparalleled talent for rendering poignant and realistic relationships of all types.

Jeanne Thornton wrote of the book:

“Plett’s stories show kindness at the same time as they show clear-eyed judgment, both of which we need. She writes beautifully about dressing rooms, balcony plants, house parties, the paramount importance of keeping your obligations to your cats. She takes us into the knot of really accurately rendered bonds of old friendships, families, queer solidarities, and she shows us how we can live there.”

In her own words, here is Casey Plett’s Book Notes music playlist for her story collection A Safe Girl to Love:

I wrote most of A Safe Girl to Love in 2013. It came out in 2014, and then it semi-fell out of print around 2017. (Technically it was in print, but only POD, and you couldn’t get it directly.) I couldn’t be happier that this new edition has come back into print thanks to Arsenal Pulp Press.

This book is a story collection about newly out trans women, most of whom are in their early-mid twenties. I was in my mid-twenties when I wrote it. Part of me wants to say this book is about youth, though part of me knows that’s likely just a function of it now being a long time since I wrote it, and probably any writer with a decade-plus on their belt can look at their past work with such a lens, regardless of their raw age.

Having all that said: Some of this playlist’s tunes are absolutely from past lives and they fucking rule, the tunes that is, not the lives, so stop listening to me and listen to this!

1. Bata Motel by Crass

There is a very particular experience some trans women have: Coming to terms with feminism twice. Some of the girls in ASGtL had a punk-boy adolescence, and I can imagine them being really into Penis Envy, the Crass album from which this song springs. What a strange thing it is to consume certain art in one life that involves grasping at empathy and solidarity in the mystified, overly urgent way that allies do—and then listen to it in another life, where it turns out it’s all a bit more personally applicable, boring, anger-inducing, and deep-seated than you thought. Tumble me over, it doesn’t take much.

2. Date with the Night by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Sophie and Mark and Megan all listen to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs during “Other Women”. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs rule! It’s always the mid-aughts when the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are on!!!

3. No Light, No Light by Florence and the Machine

The second Florence album makes me feel like I could climb a mountain. Which I can’t, but it’s nice to feel like I can. There was a year in my early transition, working retail in New York City, where I listened to it over and over and over.

4. Darken Her Horse by Austra

I moved back to Winnipeg right before I powered through writing the majority of this book like a despondent missile with my hair on fire. When I moved, I drove from Washington state to Southern Manitoba in the middle of winter. It’s two days of endless snow through barely-populated mountain, badland, and prairie. The morning I left the West Coast, my friend Calvin burned me this album and I listened to it on the drive and all through that year. You could say it’s my inner soundtrack to much of the book.

5. Between the Bars by Marika Hackman


6. Homesick by Kings of Convenience


7. Control by Garbage

It’s complicated to make any universal statement on being early in transition—but I might proffer that everyone faces something new and strange about control. Losing control, claiming control, being controlled, attempts at control, succumbing to control, burning things down if it means you get control.

Also: Shirley Manson said trans rights! Garbage forever.

8. The Metrosexual Threw Off My Gaydar by Athens Boys Choir

I would like to be clear that “Real Equality” is meant as satire. All gentle good fun. And Athens Boys Choir is an excellent time warp to a very particular queer setting in which much of this book lives. IYKYK!

9. Preludes, Op. 28: No. 4, Largo – Chopin

When I was very little, I lived in cold prairie city apartments like the one in “Portland, Oregon” (which btw absolutely does not take place in Portland, Oregon). I’ve had trouble sleeping all my life, and my mother and father, raised in musical Mennonite households, thought that if they played classical music it would help me sleep. It did help, a little.

10. Doing Time by Bad Religion

Hopelessness and despair in the city. (Still “Portland, Oregon”)

11. Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure by The Weakerthans and 12. Plea From A Cat Named Virtute by The Weakerthans

To choose care when it does not, objectively, seem like the healthiest choice for oneself: This is one of the most beautiful and dangerous decisions we can make. Some extreme possibilities of a life can occur as a result, and you can’t know how it’ll shake out. But one thing’s for sure—once that choice is in the past, and you’ve got a retrospective on it, you’ll look back with supposed 20/20 hindsight and think “Of course it was going to be that way”. But you might not be right.

Because when you’re at the precipice of that choice, you just have no fucking idea. The worlds you can either enter headlong or miss with such chance…the stakes that are so high that can go either way…It makes me very emotional to think about.

(Also, this is the only proper order for listening to these two songs. If you have certain feelings about cats, that is.)

13. Tarifa by Sharon van Etten

I imagine years after “Not Bleak” takes place, Carla hears this tune and the memory of that one summer opens up to her. She’ll never want to contact Zeke again, that will not change. But Carla will think of her, and that time, like this, for the rest of her life. I can’t explain it any other way.

14. Treacherous by Taylor Swift

I had a good time back in the day imagining “Not Bleak” as a movie set to Taylor Swift’s Red. This one would start with the drive back home after Zeke changes back into regular clothes, and the bridge kicks in right as Carla gets home and kisses Liam. And we probably see Zeke sitting in her room alone.

15. Jesus Was A Wino by Lydia Loveless

I put Miranda Lambert’s “Ugly Lights” on my last Largehearted Boy playlist and said: “Is there a better song about the cheery abandon, grim despair, and utter banality of heavy drinking?” It turns out the answer is yes, there is exactly one better song and it is Lydia Loveless’ “Jesus Was A Wino”. Bet you Carla and Zeke would raise a bottle or two to this one, probably wouldn’t be for the best.

16. Bamboo Bones by Against Me!

I never got much into Against Me! but I remember when Laura Jane Grace came out, someone posted “The Ocean” and I began listening to it over and over and just crying. That song bears a lot of load in AM! lore, as it’s explicitly alluding to trans-ness. I don’t remember writing “A Carried Ocean Breeze” with it in mind, but I wrote it around the same time and there’s clearly kinship there. “The Ocean” is still good, but I think of some other AM! songs with that pre-trans lens, and I really love the vibe of this one.

17. April the 14th Part I by Gillian Welch

Gillian said in an interview that this came from watching a band in a downtown bar in Eugene, Oregon, where I went to high school and where “Winning,” the last long story in this book, is set. I can hear it.

18. Reunion by the xx

Zoe. And, in her own individual way, Sandy too.

19. Colorblind by Counting Crows

In the final story of this book, “Youth,” a teenage boy is obsessed with his girlfriend and tries to be happy, positive, and loving to her as a response to her depression and self-harm. He is also clearly dysphoric, desperate, and fully ignoring his own emotional turmoil by submerging his identity into hers. I have a lot of love for both these people, who are individually screaming inside where no one can really hear them, and who in their own ways are checked out of the world.

20. Potemkin City Limits by Propagandhi

This is probably the kind of punk rock that teenage boy liked. I didn’t know Propagandhi at his age, but I do have a feeling. Just, kind of a strong one. This is the kind of thing that that boy liked.

Casey Plett is the two-time Lambda Literary Award-winning author of the novel Little Fish and the story collections A Dream of a Woman and A Safe Girl to Love; the co-editor of Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy From Transgender Writers; and the publisher at LittlePuss Press.

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