Appreciators of music and literature alike will be intrigued by Kris Chadderton Faatz ’01, musician turned novelist, Swarthmore alum, and author of To Love a Stranger. This story centers on life in a classical orchestra, with characters drawn from Faatz’s life as a professional musician herself. In fact, Faatz claims the book would never have been written without her experiences in the world of music. Prior to To Love a Stranger, Faatz had never done any serious fiction writing but recalls writing stories as a kid. From the novel’s conception in 2007, the project took 10 years to complete.
In asking Faatz about her inspiration for the novel, she points to music as an obvious influence. “I wanted to bring readers into the backstage world and show them what musicians’ lives look like,” she says. However, as the novel evolved and took shape, Faatz found new themes emerging in her writing. “I began to realize that it was also about social justice. The story takes place during the late 1980s, at the height of the AIDS crisis. The more I worked on it, the more urgency I felt to tell my main character’s story because even these days (perhaps especially these days) it’s still far too easy to look at someone else as ‘other’ and dismiss or judge them out of hand.”
Another influence on Faatz’s writing was her Swarthmore experience as a music and engineering double major, which she described as “intense and sometimes pretty exhausting.” However, the endless hours spent in Lang and many performances with Swarthmore’s chorus and orchestra led Faatz to pursue music in graduate school, and later, as a profession. Although her engineering major seems less directly related to her novel, Faatz draws a connection through the thinking, problem-solving, and patience involved in both engineering and writing. On the connection between writing and music, Faatz says, “They’re both forms of storytelling. Musical storytelling can be a bit more abstract, but when I’m playing, as when I’m writing, what I want to do most is communicate with the audience. Storytelling in either format is a way of inviting people to experience something new and join in an act of sharing. For me, that’s the most powerful aspect of both art forms.”
This weekend, Faatz will read from To Love a Stranger as well as perform piano pieces from or related to the book. The performance and reading embody the intersection between music history, performance, and literature. Faatz will also provide historical commentary, as well as an audience Q&A, meet-and-greet, and book signing. Says Faatz, “I’m especially excited to have this event at Swarthmore because I know how much the community values the arts and cares about current issues and social justice. I can’t imagine a more supportive place to share my ten-year book project, and I’m so glad to have the chance to bring Stranger home.”
Kris Faatz Reading and Performance takes place Saturday, February 10th at 3PM in Lang Concert Hall. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit https://www.swarthmore.edu/music/concerts-events.
Maya Kikuchi ’20