Click to order now!These Things Happen
A contemporary story set in New York City told in numerous original and authentic voices. The story opens with Wesley, a tenth grader, and involves his two sets of parents (the mom and her second husband, a thoughtful doctor; and the father who has become a major gay lawyer/activist and his significant “significant other” who owns a restaurant).
Wesley is a fabulous kid, whose equally fabulous best friend Theo has just won a big school election and simultaneously surprises everyone in his life by announcing that he is gay. No one is more surprised than Wesley, who actually lives temporarily with his gay father and partner, so that he can get to know his rather elusive dad. When a dramatic and unexpected trauma befalls the boys in school, all the parents converge noisily in love and well-meaning support.
These Things Happen is a sharp, laugh-out-loud funny, ultimately deeply moving story about the way we live now and the alertness and awareness we have to cultivate in order to do it. It’s about the assumptions we all unknowingly hold that we take in from the culture around us, no matter how free from “all that” we think we might be; the received convictions just beneath the surface that need only the right spark to catch fire. In this novel that fire burns its way through the stories all the characters tell themselves about themselves; no one is who they were at the start, and all must find the courage to truly, for the first time, face who they are.
Download the These Things Happen Teacher Guide authored by CBK Associates.
Author Richard Kramer is the Emmy and multiple Peabody award winning writer, director and producer of numerous TV series, including Thirtysomething, My So-called Life, Tales of the City, and Once and Again. His first short story appeared in the New Yorker while he was still an undergraduate at Yale. This is his first novel.
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Service Learning Ideas: Safe and Strong Communities This book opens the door for extensive conversation—students to students, parents to students, parents to parents, and interaction with the entire community. Many organizations are emerging to provide guidance in how to energize students to be proactive partners in replacing bias with respect and friendship. Having a book to speak to this so clearly and to help us examine deep held ideas is most valuable. For any school supporting diversity education or a literature program with books that truly speak to youth today, These Things Happen is an outstanding choice.
“Mr. Kramer has a gift for angst and honesty . . . his dialogue is funny and captivating” – New York Times
“A novel of almost shocking empathy and incredible love.” – Salon Magazine
“Exquisite . . . These Things Happen is greater than the tactility of its descriptions and the tragicomic vivacity of its characters. This is a novel of the sort that defines generations. Weaving together the individual struggles of his various characters with profound empathy, Kramer asks the reader to consider the limitations of genial political correctness, and even the very notion of love . . . . Beauty and tragedy, adoration and resentment perch simultaneously on single sentences, and readers will be hard-pressed to resist the resultant emotional pull. If, as Wesley muses, ‘everything is practice for conversations that haven’t happened yet, with people [we’ve] yet to meet,’ then wandering the pages of Kramer’s novel may be a crucial warm-up exercise for us all. A dazzling tour de force, alternately exhilarating and devastating, and, at all turns, revelatory.”—ForeWord Reviews
“Like the two main characters it so unforgettably etches, Richard Kramer’s first novel exemplifies the virtues of both youth and maturity: it manages to be both wise and wide-eyed, sage and sensitive, deeply funny and, in the end, disarmingly touching. The man behind ThirtySomething and My So-Called Life has taken his trademark qualities–the grownup’s shrewdness about the way the world works and the adolescent’s disarming emotional nakedness–and fashioned from them a very affecting work of fiction.” –Daniel Mendelsohn
“An introspective and contemporary character study . . . Earlier in his career, Mr. Kramer worked on the acclaimed television dramas, “My So-Called Life” and “Thirtysomething.” From the former, he has borrowed the focus on teen angst as narrated by perceptive teens. From the latter, he has borrowed the insecurities of highly competent parents caught in the act of flogging themselves for their non-omniscience. These Things Happen is Richard Kramer’s first novel, but he is no novice. This is a well-measured and mature debut.” –New York Journal of Books
“In Kramer’s warmhearted and appealing novel, we get to know Wesley through his own storytelling and via chapters told in the voices of the significant people in his life. Everyone knows Wesley and his best friend, Theo, are close. After Theo is elected class president in their socially liberal private school, he comes out during his acceptance speech. Controversy and violence follow, and Wesley comes to his friend’s aid. Theo has questions he wants Wesley to ask his father, a gay activist lawyer, and his father’s partner, an actor and chef. Wesley’s mother and stepfather also weigh in. Questions lead to more questions and, ultimately, to examinations of the essentials of life and love. Wisdom and understanding are achieved, but not from the expected sources. Kramer catches the snap of adolescent speech and the concerned tones of the adults with skill. Choppy on the surface, the novel is calm and deep as a whole. Wesley is a remarkable and well-drawn character, as are the adults in his life. Kramer’s tale of coming-of-age and coming out should have wide appeal. -Booklist
“Richard Kramer’s These Things Happen is a jewel of a book: incisive, funny, wise, and moving. It prompted me, on almost every page, to ask the question I’m most glad to find myself asking of a novel, How did the writer know that?”
“[B]rings his eye for human nature to his debut novel.”—Marie Claire
“There is precious little territory of the male heart into which Kramer does not venture with audacity and tenderness. I closed this book feeling delighted, moved, and oddly privileged to have had such a wise escort on a journey both familiar and utterly foreign.”—Julia Glass, author of The Widower’s Tale and Three Junes
“Emotionally resonant…The humanity and love between two people thrown together by circumstance is Kramer’s triumph…”—Publishers Weekly
Unbridled Books, 272 pages high school/college/adult