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God Says No

3.44  ·  Rating Details  ·  340 Ratings  ·  65 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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Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsThe Help by Kathryn StockettCity of Glass by Cassandra ClareAn Echo in the Bone by Diana GabaldonBlood Promise by Richelle Mead
Best Books of 2009
102nd out of 1,517 books — 6,811 voters
Comfort and Joy by Jim GrimsleyThe Absolutist by John BoyneChulito by Charles Rice-GonzálezThe Song of Achilles by Madeline MillerThe Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery
ALA Stonewall Book Award and Honors - Literature
22nd out of 96 books — 15 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,131)
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Jul 21, 2011 Maicie rated it really liked it
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
Jul 16, 2009 Alan rated it did not like it
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
Carly Trask-Kuchta
Sep 11, 2012 Carly Trask-Kuchta rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 29, 2009 Corey rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 07, 2009 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 13, 2009 Michael rated it really liked it
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
Nov 11, 2013 Alvin rated it really liked it
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
May 29, 2009 Amy rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 15, 2014 Lisa rated it liked it
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
Jun 30, 2013 Belinda rated it really liked it
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
Aug 10, 2009 Gaelen rated it really liked it
Shelves: largeheartedboy, 2009
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
Christina G
Mar 22, 2015 Christina G rated it really liked it
I read this because a coworker friend called this one of his favorite books, and because of this summary on Amazon:
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 nineteen, 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.
The main character bumbles through life thwarting any development in self-awareness, and
Jan 27, 2010 Chad rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 14, 2010 Kevin rated it did not like 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.
May 17, 2010 Kissley rated it really liked it
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
Nov 10, 2014 John Bateman rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Corey Jeffers
Nov 28, 2011 Corey Jeffers rated it did not like it
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
May 12, 2012 Peggy rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbt-themed
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
Jun 15, 2013 L rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 01, 2011 Anita rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, swap-in, swap-out
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
Jun 20, 2009 Abraham rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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
Sep 16, 2009 Amber Anderson rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
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
Aug 19, 2013 Jordan rated it did not like it
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
Apr 04, 2016 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was such an interesting book and I really enjoyed reading it. Hannaham presents the poignant story of Gary, a gay black Christian struggling with his identity. While there were a few lackluster points in the story, and a few points I wish Hannaham had spent more time on, this was a heart wrenching and hilarious novel.
Aug 15, 2010 Wade rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Joseph Shafer
The story itself is a great representation of the pains of living a double life. Gary Gray is a character that you love immediately because his struggles are dealt with in a convincing way. Whichever side of the fence you are on, this book will give you insight into the spiritual struggle associated with the mixing of Christianity and being gay. I felt that the detailed depictions of Gary's sexual actions were a bit too much for most readers (myself included) and I tended to avoid them when poss ...more
Aug 18, 2010 Andrea rated it really liked it
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
Penny Griffin
Sep 08, 2015 Penny Griffin rated it did not like it
if this book had a point, beyond wasting the time it took to read it, it was completely lost on me. chapter after chapter of self loathing and the kind of blind religious extremism that made me nauseous.
Lydia Hunter
Dec 06, 2012 Lydia Hunter rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 25, 2015 Nathan rated it did not like it
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.
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James Hannaham is the author, most recently, of the novel Delicious Foods, which is a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick for Spring 2015. His 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 ...more
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