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God Says No Hardcover – May 25, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: McSweeney's; 1ST edition (May 25, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934781401
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934781401
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,172,166 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap



“A tender, funny tour of a mind struggling to do the right thing. A
revelatory and sympathetic guide to a misunderstood world.”

--Steve Martin, author of "Shopgirl" and "Born Standing Up"

"James Hannaham's GOD SAYS NO introduces a groundbreaking new American
voice: a writer of spectacular sentences who has trained his sights on a
world that has hardly been touched by literary fiction. Topical and
ambitious, disturbing and hilarious, GOD SAYS NO is everything a person
could ask of a first novel — and twice that much. "

--Jennifer Egan, author of "Look at Me" and "The Keep"


"This novel is an absolute original. Gary Gray's search for wholeness and
acceptance is a heartfelt (and often very funny) plea for all men (and
women) to be embraced just as they are. A wonderful debut."

--Martha Southgate, author of "Third Girl From The Left"


“GOD SAYS NO is a book that was desperate to be written but well out of
reach. And then James Hannaham came along and wrote it, with the kind of
care, wit, sympathy and fury that the book deserved. Imagine Candide…—
okay, imagine Candide as a black man, a southerner, a Christian
fundamentalist, middle-class, obese, married, a father, and utterly, even
profoundly gay.
If a comedy, in the classical sense, is a story then ends in a
marriage, and a tragedy is a story that ends with a death, then what do you
call a book that ends with a split and a resurrection? A truly daring first
novel, and something to read.”

--Jim Lewis, author of "Why the Tree Loves the Ax"

About the Author

James Hannaham was born in the Bronx and grew up in Yonkers, New York. His fiction has appeared in the Literary Review and several anthologies. He teaches creative writing at the Pratt Institute and is a staff writer in the culture department at Salon.

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

The characters are realistic, interesting, and multidimentional.
Amazon Customer
The book was kind and frank regarding all points of view presented.
Michael P. McCullough
The book didn't make me laugh or feel sad or feel anything at all.
Frederick A. Nelson II

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By abraham burickson on June 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
It is a rare thing indeed that I want to have a good experience reading a book and then do. God Says No began with a premise I wasn't sure about and a character whose credulity I wasn't certain I could relate to, and a tone I couldn't quite parse at first, but after a few chapters I was hooked. What Hannaham has done here is to turn his protagonist - a pitiable character not normally found in the protagonist role - and turn him into the Everyman. Though I am neither gay nor black nor Christian nor overweight nor from deepest Florida, I cannot help identifying with Gary Gray. He is a man fundamentally at odds with who he is and on a quest to make amends; who of us hasn't experienced that?

It is always interesting to find a protagonist who is clearly less intelligent or less in the know than the author. Gray is one of these, and his innocence makes him a foil for the endless string of absurdities that is American Sexuality. Nobody really gets off scott-free here, and nobody is fully skewered. The most potent part of the book is when Gray is at Restoration Ministries (where they turn homosexuals straight). The idea is hard to think of but with mockery, but this is where Gray has his first taste of introspection, of acceptance, and of cameraderie. As a reader you feel the painful irony of it; you are pulled in two directions: wishing for Gray to escape their clutches and hoping he'll stick around with them long enough to give himself an honest look.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By amy bou on May 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
GOD SAYS NO is a novel that does what literature should do: make a completely unique and fully realized character seem utterly human and relate-able. I challenge any reader who skims the book jacket copy and pauses to wonder what they might have in common with the narrator, Gary Gray--a young Christian fundamentalist black man from the South who is gay--to walk away without feeling affected by this story and this character.

The writing is poetic, surprising, and extremely funny. James Hannaham has a truly original voice with an important (and entertaining) story to tell. A majorly good new novel by a major new American writer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By scoundrel on December 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Stereotypes: gotta love ‘em, gotta hate ‘em. Mostly, though? Hate ‘em. With his first novel, James Hannaham deftly avoids the two most common stereotypes of gay African-American men (the rugged but closeted dynamo; the overly flamboyant drag queen) for someone more unassuming and painfully real. Gary Grey, the overweight narrator of God Says No has neither the flash of E. Lynn Harris’ characters nor the “Lord ha’ mercy!” minstrelsy of a closeted choir director (another infamous stereotype), and Gray’s struggle with marriage, religion and desire becomes all the more moving for its real-life dimensions.

We first meet Gary at a Christian college, fighting his roommate over a broken Jesus. Gary’s language, by turns sincere, naïve and lustful, reflects not only a religious upbringing, but also his Southern roots; he describes a love as fleeting as “a sugarcube in a hot shower.” But even as he tries to remain true to his moral code—chastising those take the Lord’s name in vain, for instance—his desire for other men overwhelms up his judgment. Gary prays for the Lord to change him but soon takes matters into his own hands: he impregnates and wed his fellow student and Disney World admirer, Annie. Despite his best intentions, however, Gary finds himself drawn to public restrooms and parks for his sexual urges until he finally finds himself in an ex-gay ministry.

Here, too, Hannaham avoids portraying the ministry as villainous. Even if the ultimate goals of Resurrection Ministries is suspect, the support mechanism the men in the ministry provide is touching, even as they relapse with too-long hugs or unsportsmanlike butt-grabs.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By cjeffers on October 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
I bought this book because I liked the idea of it, and I was also convinced by the fact that it was presumably a thought-provoking, insightful book about a character torn between two commonly opposing forces--a christian lifestyle and homosexuality. I was not really let down by the idea of the book as I read, but I did feel let down about virtually everything else.

The narration is bland and banal, and the relationships between characters, particularly the protagonist and his wife, are shallow and predictable. The ostensible humor in the book is also cheeky and seemingly juvenile at times, beyond the point of enjoyment or laughter. I forced myself to finish this book, principally because I paid for it, but I can't see myself ever buying a book by James Hannaham again. The writing style of this one was so indecisive that I could never fully feel humor, sincerity, cynicism, struggle, sadness, or anything else besides indifference.

Does anyone have any suggestions for novels with similar themes and ideas as this one but with tolerable craft for writing? I'd like to read about a set of dynamic characters whose sincere struggle/identity-crisis or even whose parodic/comedic portrayal of an identity crisis related to homosexuality and religion is actually worth reading about. It seems that James Hannaham tried to have the best of both worlds with this book, but instead he ended up with the least of each.
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