Bibliophile | Danger Music finds beauty in a brutal place

Danger Music
by Eddie Ayres
Allen & Unwin

When Emma was 12 years old, they were desperately unhappy and wanted to get as far away as possible from their home in Shropshire, England. The ordered, tranquil world of studying and playing music made life better and Emma went from learning the viola as a child to playing in the Hong Kong Philharmonic. They learnt the cello in their thirties and became a successful radio presenter in Australia on ABC Classic FM.

Androgynous from their teenager years, Emma realised that they were transgender after watching the movie Boys Don’t Cry. Later, when living in Australia, the distress about their gender and inability to do anything brought about deep depression.

Emma thought that being androgynous would keep the dissatisfaction they felt with being female at bay but there was “a great tsunami of self-hatred” heading straight for them.

Quitting their job as a presenter, Emma travelled to Afghanistan to teach music in a war zone. “There’s nothing like a few suicide bombers to distract you from thinking about gender dysphoria.”

Danger Music is about Emma’s time at the Afghanistan Institute of Music. Teaching cello and double bass at the Kabul school, they learnt the true meaning of chaos but also went on an incredible personal journey. The horror and joy of Afghanistan were intertwined. “A dangerous, dusty, aggressive, brutal place that was so full of love and beauty.”

The challenges of living in Afghanistan eventually got to them, but not before enriching their life with the stories of all the children whose lives they changed. It was not until returning to Australia that Emma finally became Eddie. Eddie shares his brave journey to self-knowledge and self-acceptance and opens our eyes to the beauty that can be found in the worst of places. It is a brave and incredibly inspiring story.

Lezly Herbert

NB: This article uses Ayres’ former name to reflect the names used in the book.


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