3 Books About Asexuality to Bring Us Together (While Social Distancing)

Marisa Manuel
Apr 21, 2020 · 6 min read
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Since COVID-19 emerged as a global threat, it’s been hard for me to focus on anything else. News about symptoms, social distancing, and potential lockdowns have flooded the front pages of every publication. But in times of crisis, I remember how essential the arts are; movies, music, and — of course — books can help us get through anything. And highlighting suppressed or underrepresented voices can help unite us when we feel most distant.

Asexual culture has long challenged mainstream conceptions of intimacy. Certainly, many asexuals still hug, kiss, etc., but asexual culture also celebrates non-physical acts of love, as well as non-sexual and non-romantic love. And now that many of us are physically separated from loved ones, these other intimate acts and ideas have gained new significance.

With that, here are three books about asexuality to help bring us closer together:

Our Dreams at Dusk by Yuhki Kamatani

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Our Dreams at Dusk, by Yuhi Kamatani. Seven Seas, 2019.

Asexual representation isn’t lacking just in the US — it’s lacking everywhere. And since different cultures have unique ways of exploring and understanding asexuality, multinational representation is critical. For this reason, I was thrilled to discover Yuhki Kamatani’s Our Dreams at Dusk, a manga series which features not just an ace character, but an entire ensemble of diverse LGBTQIA characters.

Our Dreams at Dusk introduces us to Tasaku Kaname, a suicidal gay teenage boy struggling to accept his sexuality. When he’s at his lowest, he meets Someone-san, a mysterious, androgynous individual who appreciates solitude and strives to help others. Through their friendship, Tasaku comes to learn more about LGBTQIA culture and accept his own sexuality.

In the fourth issue, Someone-san comes out as ace (asexual) and potentially aro (aromantic), but hints of her sexuality can be found throughout the series. While the story is mainly about Tasaku, Someone-san’s desire to be herself — and to seek and enjoy solitude — forms a central subplot. Ultimately, her story suggests that our ways of labeling or identifying a person are less important than how that person feels, wants, and knows themselves to be.

Originally, I only planned to review the first issue, but I wound up reading the full series in a single sitting. If you want a look at asexuality from an Eastern perspective, I recommend Our Dreams at Dusk. It reminds us that we’re all trying to figure ourselves out; that we should be allowed the space to do so; and ultimately, that our personal truths are the ones that matter most. These lessons are especially applicable during self-isolation, as they provide a positive perspective toward time alone. Simply put, being alone isn’t the same as being without, and we can apply this time toward a better understanding and appreciation of who we are.

the princess saves herself in this one by Amanda Lovelace

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the princess saves herself in this one, by Amanda Lovelace. Andrew McMeel Publishing, 2017.

T.ake a look at the covers of Amanda Lovelace’s recent poetry books, and you’ll notice their colors echo most of the asexual flag: one’s black, one’s white, and one’s purple. A self-described “space ace,” Lovelace’s poetry is out of this world, yet also deeply entrenched in it. By juxtaposing the fantastical with themes of loss, love, and perseverance, Lovelace shows what it means to battle personal demons — both internal and external — and emerge victorious.

Lovelace begins the princess saves herself in this one by asserting that the book is not a fairytale. Rather, the book is about “a girl/ faced with the/ difficult task/ of learning to/ believe in/ herself.” And yet, even in the first poem, Lovelace’s speaker undeniably connects with fairytales:

“t̶h̶e̶ ̶p̶r̶i̶n̶c̶e̶s̶s̶ was born
a little bookmad.

i could be found stroking
the spines of my books

while i sat locked alone
inside my t̶o̶w̶e̶r̶ bedroom.”

Lovelace’s speaker uses the fantastical as an escape from and fortification against the tumult surrounding her. This is evident in several other poems that continue to jump back and forth between “i” and “the princess” or “the queen” and “my mother.” Furthermore, by so obviously including elements of fantasy while denying their inclusion with strikethrough text, Lovelace seems to be playing with the nature of belief itself, which harkens back to her speaker’s need to believe in themselves.

Lovelace’s collection is divided into four parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, and you. And while asexuality isn’t explicitly mentioned, hints of it are sprinkled throughout:

“i used to think
i was broken

because
i never once

spent my
daydreams

plucking
swollen pomegranates

from
someone else’s tree.

- then i learned that society is broken, not me.”

However, the star of this collection is not sexuality at all. Nor is it abuse, body image issues, sister relationships, or millennial culture, though Lovelace balances all these topics. Instead, the book finds its heart in the themes of love, loss, and resilience. Throughout each section, Lovelace’s speaker combats grief, finds comfort, and repeats the cycle. And each time, her speaker emerges stronger, ready to take on the next dragon and defeat it, all in pursuit of continuing her tale.

“once upon
a time,
the princess
rose from the ashes
her dragon lovers
made of her
&
crowned
herself
the
motherfucking
queen of
herself.

- how’s that for a happily ever after?”

As COVID-19 continues to spread, it’s important that we believe in ourselves and emulate this strength. We have the resilience to get through this pandemic, and love — toward both ourselves and others — will be the force that guides us through.

All That We Are: Asexuality and the Misconceptions Surrounding It by Natasja Rose

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All That We Are: Asexuality and the Misconceptions Surrounding It, by Natasja Rose. 2017.

No two asexual people will have the exact same experiences or opinions, just like no two gay, bi, or straight people will completely align in their beliefs. Thus, it’s important to hear from a range of voices in order to get a glimpse of what asexuality entails for different individuals. All That We Are: Asexuality and the Misconceptions Surrounding It features a wide range of perspectives and experiences related to asexuality, from sex indifferent asexuals to demi and autochorissexual aces — all of which inform the nuanced nature of asexuality as a spectrum.

Rose’s book is broken into several segments addressing topics like Ace Erasure, relationships, and the definition of asexuality itself. In each segment, Rose offers her opinion on how the topic relates to the asexual community (such as by explaining the effect of oversexualized marketing and media on identity). She then discusses several personal experiences that relate to the topic before transitioning into other asexuals’ opinions and experiences.

Interestingly, some of the commentators’ accounts directly oppose or contradict one another. There were even some opinions that I directly disagreed with, such as the idea that an ace individual might hurt asexuality by engaging in consensual sex with a loved one. However, each of these opinions was backed by an explanation, and ultimately, they open a discussion on how we can increase asexual visibility, educate allies, and support each other. In other words, the book doesn’t require a reader to agree with every opinion; rather, it opens the reader to a variety of viewpoints, letting readers consider said views for themselves and reach their own conclusions.

Since learning about COVID-19, things have been scary. But the scariest times are also the ones we can grow the most from. And by reading books from marginalized voices, we can grow in our understanding; we can grow in our empathy; and we can grow in our sense of togetherness. Even while social distancing, we can still band together and persevere through this new normal — and once we emerge on the other side of this tragedy, we can strive to make a “newer” normal filled with acceptance and love, in all its forms.

I hope these books will help you get through the next few weeks, and then, help us build our community in the years to follow. Stay safe, stay informed, and stay supportive.

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