A word in “The God Box”

19 Feb

I recently read The God Box by Alex Sanchez for a class project. Sanchez’s book is about a kid named Paul who lives in a conservative Texas town. Manuel, who’s openly gay, moves in, and Paul suddenly has to deal with a Christian who doesn’t interpret the Bible as hating gay people. The story follows Paul’s crisis of faith and identity.

The whole book I anticipated the revelation to come in the form of “everyone experiences sexual attraction, and some people are built to be attracted to certain people,” but it was much more just about how Paul and Manuel weren’t going to Hell. I don’t think it ever stated that everyone has sexual attraction to deal with, which I really appreciated.

Page 152, Paul is talking to Manuel about whether being gay is wrong, which he does a lot. Paul’s mentioned the ex-gay guy who suggested Paul follow the ex-gay ways too. (Bolding mine. My layout italicizes all of the blockquote, but “were” and the “a-” were originally italicized.)

“If somebody is unhappy being gay,” Manuel proceeded, “they can try to get involved with the opposite sex, or just not have sex at all. But why judge and try to ‘save’ others rather than just accept that everyone is different? Even if sexual orientation were a choice, aren’t we a country where we’re supposed to be free to pursue our happiness, whether we’re hetero-, homo-, bi-, trans-, or even a-sexual?”

I admit I got all tingly. A mention! Which is enough for someone thinking “I’m not like Paul and Manuel, but I’m not like the straight characters, either” to make a Google search. I think that the context of the word in this book is legitimizing, even though they don’t talk about it again. They don’t talk about bisexuality or being transgender either, but they don’t dismiss any of them.

[ETA: pianycist has pointed out that Sanchez might’ve meant asexual as in gender, not sexuality, which didn’t even occur to me! I wonder if I’d identified as neutrois for longer than I have if that would’ve jumped out at me as a gender thing instead of a sexuality thing. Hmm. This is one thing that would come from reading books alone, I guess, although hey, the Internet is probably more knowledgable on this subject than any of my English classes would’ve been. And probably my current class too.]

It is kind of sad that the most I have to get excited about is one word in an entire novel. But people still don’t really know about asexuality, and at this point, it seems like there are very few nonasexual people who have a grasp of the asexual community. I can think of one explicitly self-identified asexual character — someone on the canceled series Huge, which I never got around to watching. And there are a lot of problematic elements with how asexual characters are treated in media; there’s so often an “alien” or “sociopath” element to them.

So for now at least, it seems we’re going to have to tell our own stories. Asexual perspectives telling asexual stories means that things will be more authentic, of course, but it also limits the available pool of authors. In the meantime I’ll still get excited at little mentions like this.

(And if you’re thinking of reading it, I feel obligated to warn you that The God Box has some triggery stuff: homophobia, hateful language, bullying, harassment, a gay bashing, and ableist talk — “crazy”, etc. — from most of the characters. There’s also discussions and/or mentions of parental death, alcoholism, rape, suicide, child abuse, and the ex-gay movement. Despite all of this there was a happy ending, though.)

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6 Responses to “A word in “The God Box””

  1. pianycist February 19, 2011 at 5:50 PM #

    It’s unclear from the passage whether the author intended to reference asexuality as a sexual orientation or as an androgynous gender identity. “Transsexual” appears directly before it, and I’ve read other novels of Sanchez’s that don’t handle trans issues well at all–in the Rainbow Boys series, the main characters meet a trans woman who likes to drag-perform as Britney Spears and it’s clear that they aren’t sure what gender pronoun to use for her, despite that she tells them that she is a woman. Sanchez doesn’t portray it as the boys just not understanding, and the last mention of the trans woman ends with the boys deciding that “he” is how they should call her. So, Sanchez could be assuming that “asexual” is the word that means neutrois or androgyne.

    • ace eccentric February 19, 2011 at 6:49 PM #

      Oh, that’s interesting! I haven’t read Rainbow Boys. That instance does sound awful. For some reason it didn’t occur to me that he could be thinking about gender there (and I’m neutrois!), although now that you point out it came after “transsexual” that does make sense. Earlier in the book he used “transsexual” to refer to a library book a character had checked out, too, so perhaps he was intending it to be read gender-wise.

      My project is to read 8-10 books on a theme of YA lit with queer main characters, so knowing “Rainbow Boys” has that problem helps me out, thank you. I’m trying to survey better lit in case teachers in my class use our pool of projects to recommend books to their students some day.

  2. maddox March 4, 2011 at 12:33 AM #

    “YA lit with queer main characters?” Yes Please. I’m planning on publishing a list on this myself, as I’ve become addicted to queer YA fiction… expect it to hit the blogshelves soon.

    • ace eccentric March 4, 2011 at 12:53 AM #

      Yeha, when she said pick your own topic, I was like, “So pick a topic of books I’d want to read anyway. Cool!” I may post the book list on the blog at some point. I have more to read than the project calls for, because I want some wriggle room in case some of them turn out to be bad.

      I actually have a book that I know next to nothing about, except that someone on Tumblr said a character in it comes out as ace. So I had to get it. ;) My Spring Break is going to be nothing but reading books from the library before I have to return them, heh.

      Do you have any recs?

  3. maddox March 4, 2011 at 12:34 AM #

    And while I do get excited when this or that character MIGHT have talked about A’s, or might be Ace, the cynic in me knows that I’m reading too much into this, that this was not the author’s intention.
    I’m as much asexual as I am cynical, sorry…

    • ace eccentric March 4, 2011 at 1:07 AM #

      Yeah, I am terribly optimistic, so I think I may have jumped the gun. will grayson, will grayson had what appeared to be a serious reference to asexuality, but I kind of couldn’t make myself get through that book so I just returned it to the library.

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