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God Says No

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  285 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Gary Gray marries his first girlfriend, 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 rest-stop bathroom and lets something happen. God Says No is his testimony — the story of a young black Christian struggli ...more
Hardcover, 300 pages
Published May 25th 2009 by McSweeney's (first published May 1st 2009)
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Best Books of 2009
107th out of 1,372 books — 6,736 voters
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The Green Carnation Prize
41st out of 62 books — 22 voters

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Community Reviews

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Gary Gray is a hot mess and doesn’t have a clue how to pull his life together. He’s fat, black, gay, and newly married with a child on the way. And he’s convinced he’s going straight to hell. A sad, humorous, and touching story of one man deciding if he is “a for-real homosexual” or “a straight fellow with some problems.”

At first, I thought the writing was a little messy but later changed my mind. Hannaham writes in a way that doesn’t make his main character particularly likeable. And that was
Gary Gray has a huge problem. On the one hand he’s young and black, a devout Christian, husband and father; on the other hand he’s secretly gay. His is the story of a black Christian bouncing between desire and belief, between love for his family and his worship of other men. Gary struggles for years to hold his life together with his dark secret always threatening to destroy his fragile world, but then what he believes is a clean way out presents itself – a way to slip away from his life and be ...more
Not exactly a fun read--more fascinating and disturbing than fun. It's the story of a young Christian man struggling with homosexuality. It's heartbreaking at times how he suppresses who he is. I usually think of prejudice as being something one person imposes on another, so it was eye opening to read a story about someone who was prejudiced against himself. It saddens me that it's possible for religion/society to make people suffer so much and hate themselves for who they are.
Carly Trask-Kuchta
this book blew me away. i couldn't say that i loved in the sense that it...was good in the conventional sense. it just spoke to me in a way that i didn't anticipate. i bought it because i thought it was nonfiction, and it had that feel throughout the whole book. it's a novel, however, about the struggle of homosexuality and the Church. it reads like a memoir, and that makes it terrifying. i was deeply affected by this book; i found it hard to put down, hard to give up on. i was repulsed by it, i ...more
What is most surprising about Hannaham's tale is how superbly he handles all sides of the issue. Gary is absolutely sincere in his desire to change that which can never be, although it is obvious that he's happiest and most 'himself' when he accepts his nature. When he enters a program to 'remove' his homosexuality, a lesser writer would likely use the opportunity to condemn such actions as ludicrous and hateful. But Gary and his teachers are fundamentally good people, led by firm beliefs that w ...more
Readers, read it. Teachers, teach it. I know James, and this book surprised and deeply impressed me. At the heart of it is a trick-- er, I could call it a trick if it was less successful, let's call it a major accomplishment-- of personation, inhabiting the voice of a fat, closeted, deeply religious black man from South Carolina named Gary Gray. The two might not have all of those aspects in common, but think of Kenneth the Page as maybe not too far-off in terms of voice. Gary is freaking hilari ...more
This novel is phenomenally good. It’s important-to-have-been-written good. It made me laugh out loud, get teary-eyed, and re-read individual sentences for the music and poetry of the language. I am a lazy and picky reader, but hours flew by while I read this novel. I was entertained, surprised, and moved; I experienced the catharsis of feeling empathy for a fully realized character, appreciated a rich and nuanced story and a cast of well-drawn secondary characters, and found myself completely re ...more
First of all - I saw this listed as a memoir when I bought it. Unfortunately, when you read on a Kindle, you don't see a book jacket, or anything indicating it's a novel. This is a novel. I didn't find that out until I finished the book today. I feel stupid that I didn't figure that out, but I'm kind of surprised because the book was awkward and kind of did read like a memoir, in that it wasn't elaborate or if it really were a memoir by somebody who didn't remember much, but did re ...more
I expected to be disgusted by this book and in some ways, I was. Mostly, I was curious about how a gay christian man struggles to deny his core, his very being, as he resurrects his heterosexual past life. I've heard of men praying the gay away but this book ignited my curiosity to find out more stories like Gary's.
I was shocked at how much Gary's feelings for men mirrored my own because to Gary, homosexuality was about loving a man and wanting to be loved by a man. Isn't that what I want? He c
Every now and then a book that I've requested comes in at the library, and I have no idea why I was interested in reading. Often, it turns out that the book was recommended at, a music blog that I read. Even knowing where the recommendation came from, and having read the book, I'm still not sure why I chose to request it, though. "God Says No" is about a gay christian man who tries to free himself of his gayness. He makes some pretty stupid decisions through the book, and I o ...more
God Says No depicts the lonely, desperate world of a closeted and self-loathing gay man living within the cloistered world of African American evangelical Christianity. Without stereotyping or moralizing it presents well-rounded and believable characters with great sympathy and understanding. A soupçon of humor derives from the narrator's priggishness and down home vernacular, but it's ultimately a serious book about a sad character belonging to a subculture that seldom appears in well-wrought l ...more
Nobody talks about this. James guides you through the Odyssean perils of the closeted Christian gay man with compassion and wit. He provides a context for the self-deceit and denial that haunts so many men in this situation that rings right in its complexity and severity. I hope the people who really need this book can find it.
This got off to a promising start: fundamentalist boy discovering his homosexual tendencies in college. Buy by halfway through the novel, I was really tired of the character's flaws and internalized homophobia. I know that's what the book was about, but I just couldn't be bothered.
Painfully funny, brilliant and bold. McSweeney's strikes again.
Gary is overweight, black, gay and Christian. What?! I heard you say.
Read it.
John Bateman
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Corey Jeffers
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 a
This is the story of a gay man who was raised within the African American Christian evangelical tradition. The book is divided into three sections that correspond to radically different periods of Gary Gray's life. The first section is the most difficult to relate to. This is when Gary is deeply closeted and his personality is not appealing, because he is living a lie. In the second section, Gary explores a fuller, richer, more honest personality, though he is not comfortable with it, and it is ...more
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Fat. Black. Christian. Gay. Man.
The main character of this novel could not be any more dissimilar from me. Which is what drew me to this book. Talk about getting a fresh perspective. But I admit that it was frustrating.
At the heart of this novel is the apparent incompatibility of Christianity and homosexuality. The consequences that befall Gary because of this belief are heartbreaking.
When I first started this book, I was so frustrated with Gary's ignorance of everything outside his religious up
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 (AKA (by me) my friend James) 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 ...more
Amber Anderson
The protagonist is Gary Gray, a God fearing, food loving black man struggling with his sexuality.

Early on in the novel, you discover Gary's feelings for his college roommate cause him to impregnate his girlfriend. He leaves school and gets a job, gets promoted, and gets a cozy apartment for his new family. He wants desperately to be a "family man" and he really does try but he's having trouble in the bedroom which puts pressure on his new marriage. Work is sending him on more and more business
I picked this up at L.A.'s most bad-ass used bookstore, The Last Bookstore. However, as badass as they are, they misfiled this as a memoir. I got about 150 pages in when I thought to myself, "Jesus, this dude had one boring life!" I kept on reading, suffering through about 20 more pages before I had to look at the author photo to see what a person with such a dull life looks like. Imagine my surprise when I noticed the authors name did not match that of the protagonist. So I popped over to goodr ...more
This book, despite the slightly outlandish situations Gary Gray gets himself into, is a surprisingly honest and unflinching look the conflict between sexuality and religion. The character is at times frustrating, yet the author has pinned down the personality of someone who has too long followed external authority even (especially) when it goes against his own lived experience. Rather than giving simple answers or taking sides, this story is a strong argument for empathy in a polarizing issue. I ...more
A very well written book about an obese, extremely devout African American man in the South who is gay and doesn't want to be, so he struggles very hard to be "normal", a prospect doomed to failure. He tries marriage to a woman, a year of "free checking", an "ex-gay" ministry, but in the end, perhaps he can only accept what he truly is. His own contradictions and hypocrisies are shown in a very realistic way, and even the easy to mock ex-gay crowd are portrayed in a sympathetic (if self-loathing ...more
Lydia Hunter
Gary our protagonist is a closeted gay man desperately trying to deny that part of himself. We see his struggles over a timespan of about 10 years through an intellectually rewarding yet sluggish read. I felt so sad for Gary, especially in the first half of this book, but the story became repetitive in the latter half. I loved it all the same, I've never been a homophobic person but this made me think of how hard it must be to be raised and live in that environment when you are personally gay. I ...more
This is a dated, cliched, and at times offensive tale of a lost soul trying to find salvation from being gay though born-again Christianity. It tries to be funny, tries to empathize with the main character's naivety , tries too hard. None of the pathetic caricatures in this book are likeable, have redeemable qualities, or are 300-pages-worth of your time.
This was a great, quick book with humor throughout. Hannaham's ability to make one laugh at uncanny situations (the protagonist, Gary Gray, struggles with his homosexuality and tries to rid himself of it by living the out life in Atlanta followed by a stint at a "pray away the gay" type place) pushes this book from four stars to five.

The story itself is very engaging and the plot moves at a very reasonable pace. Hannaham's prose throws the reader into Gary's life very well, and the aforementione
Given the superlatives lavished on this book by a few reviewers, I really expected to love this story about a man torn between self-identity and religious identity. While there were some wonderful and touching moments to the book, I found it simply too long in the telling. I do think it is an important story and reflective of many people's inner struggle to reconcile who they are with who they want to be; however, Hannaham's book could have benefitted from some major editing.
Gary Gray is a fat, black Christian trying to fight his homosexual feelings. Tomfoolery ensues. I admit, the misadventures Gary gets himself into is a bit of stretch, but Hannaham's writing is crisp and funny, so you lose yourself in the questionable plot. Of course you know where the author's social and political leanings are, but he does tackle all sides and at times I felt he was arguing for the other team. This was an excellent weekend read.
An obese brother yearns to be a happily married Christian man...except for one thing- he's only sexually attracted to other men. D'oh!! Compelling and honest read about a man trying to find how to apply God's word to his life, even though much of it goes against the feelings and desires he has, through no fault of his own. At times both hilarious and heartbreaking- this one leaves you thinking way beyond the final page. Check-it, check-it out!!
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James Hannaham's first novel, God Says No, was published by McSweeney's in 2009 and was a finalist for a Lambda Book Award, a semifinalist for a VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, and was named an honor book by the American Library Association's Stonewall Book Awards. His short fiction has appeared in BOMB, The Literary Review,, Open City, and several anthologies. He has written for the Vi ...more
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