GOD SAYS NO
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. 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.
Here are some interviews with James Hannaham from the New York Times, The Advocate, Salon.com, and Out magazine.
Here is the best summation (so far) of the book, by the Village Voice. And one more in Time Out New York.
Praise for God Says No
"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 A Visit from the Goon Squad
"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
"God Says No is a masterful piece of writing and a powerful human portrait, but for the present moment it is most important for shedding light on an issue that is at the center of much of our political conflict. Gary is a crossroads figure who we can all identify with in some way—gay and evangelical, a black man from the deep south with a Samoan wife who loves Disney World and flirts with cosmopolitanism. He is an everyman, and, through it all, universally human."
—Imani Perry, The Defenders Online
"Author James Hannaham excels at creating flat characters in a few lines, and then quickly filling them out as conflicted, complex characters."
—Matt Briggs, Reading Local Seattle
"God Says No is about the innocence in enlightenment, proving that there really is something brave about every part of the journey. It takes courage to worship, to lose faith, to become yourself-or to write sincerely about any of it.... With God Says No, James Hannaham has written a work of constant anxiety and self-deceit—but in each, a glimpse of truth."
—Rachel E. Katz, Weekly Dig
"Through Gary, Hannaham confronts religion, race, sexuality, and the American South with a fair measure of drama, a heaping helping of humor, and lots and lots of ice cream."
—Lee Baily, The Advocate
"Gary Gray is a wholly American character unlike many we meet in literary fiction, written in a clear, contemporary style that has a good chuckle at our taboos. God Says No takes out cultural anxiety about homosexuality and spins it into prose that breathes, capturing a human moment with all the sadness and humor that it deserves."
"In a fantastic first novel, God Says No explores the tumult of inner conflict, Fundamentalist Christianity versus nature, the desire to make loved ones happy, the quest for ‘goodness,' and a near-universal urge to fit in. James Hannaham will be an exciting author to follow."
—Kyle Olson, Hipster Book Club
"Hannaham is keenly observant of the gay experience and the havoc that sexual repression wreaks on the psyche, without ever letting the novel become a humorless or preachy jeremiad."
—Aaron Hierholzer, Austinist
"Incredibly insightful, beautiful, and heartbreaking all at once."
"It is the impressive discipline of first-time novelist (and Michner graduate) James Hannaham's flat prose—which displays an almost anti-writerly lack of ornament, devoid of extensive contemplation—that allows such a thorough inhabitation of his character."
—Cindy Widner, The Austin Chronicle
—Karen M. Thomas, The Dallas Morning News