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God Says No Hardcover – May 25, 2009

3.5 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: McSweeney's (May 25, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934781401
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934781401
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,699,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
Yet another author who teaches creative writing. This is his first novel.

Gary Gray marries his first girlfriend, a Samoan, a fellow student from Central Florida Christian College who loves Disney World as much as he does. They are 19 years old, God-fearing, and eager to start a family, but a week before their wedding Gary goes into a cottage/tearoom and lets something happen. God Says No is his testimony — the story of a young black Christian struggling with desire and belief, with his love for his wife and his appetite for other men, told in a singular, emotional voice. Driven by desperation and religious visions, the path that Gary Gray takes — from revival meetings to "out" life in Atlanta to a pray-away-the-gay ministry in Memphis, Tennessee — gives a riveting picture of how a life like his can be lived, and how it can't.

He learns Tearoom etiquette very quickly and suffers paranoia and suicidal thoughts.

When involved in a train crash, his first thought is that God has saved him for a purpose p- he even thinks he sees Jesus, with the nail wound through the wrist instead of the hand, which is an obsession of his. Then he thinks it’s the ideal chance to be thought missing, presumed dead… He throws his wallet into the wreckage, yet later says it was stolen and still later has cash to pay for a cab – the author should have decided which of these two to discard.

He has a relationship with a good guy but he cannot give himself freely because of his guilt.

Gray spends the novel's last third in a gay reform camp outside Memphis, and even though it's clear that Hannaham views such efforts as fruitless and damaging, instead of mocking southerners, Bible-thumpers and gay reformers, Hannaham humanises them.
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