3 Books to Celebrate National Asexual Awareness Week

Marisa Manuel
Oct 25, 2019 · 6 min read
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National Asexual Awareness Week is October 22nd-28th; what better way to celebrate than by reading some more books by asexual authors? We’ve already compiled a list of some great books about asexuality, but there are dozens (hundreds! thousands!) more options to fill your bookshelf. So, if you’re a fan of fables, a lover of intersectional poetry, or a connoisseur of smart, funny YA, we have some recommendations.

Here are three more books by asexual authors to add to your collection:

  1. Unburied Fables by Creative Aces Publishing
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Unburied Fables, Creative Aces Publishing 2016.

Creative Aces Publishing is a publishing house fully staffed by ace writers. Their mission is to vivify and expand the canon of LGBTQIA literature, and with their collection Unburied Fables, they’ve succeeded. Through the lens of fables and fairy tales, each of these stories tackles concepts of gender identity, sexual orientation, romantic orientation, and belonging.

These stories aren’t simple retellings — they’re full-on reimaginings that star several aro and ace characters. The first story, which is an homage to Beauty and the Beast, features an aromantic-asexual friendship, as well as an agender character. Hints of the characters’ sexualities and romantic orientations are scattered throughout, from their lack of interest in marriage, to the black, white, grey, and purple flowers that sprout in the Beast’s home, which represent the asexual flag. In a later story, “Odd,” the central character is offered the chance to wed the country’s prince or princess — a refreshing nod to bisexuality. However, she is adamant that “I don’t feel attraction like that,” and she refuses to wed either royal. The story stresses again and again that this is her choice and that she should be allowed to do as she desires:

“She never felt attraction the way the storybooks described it, but that didn’t make her wrong or broken. She was happy. She didn’t need another person to complete her.”

The subsequent stories continue along a similar vein, and include a funny tale about a knight who does not kiss the sleeping princess, a retelling of “The Little Match Girl” where literal matchsticks point you to your true Match, and numerous other stories with polyamory, homo/aromanticism, and non-straight sexualities at the center. While not every story focuses on asexuality/aromanticism, they’re each concerned with marginalization, identity, and finding a voice. Additionally, many of the stories focus on the importance of non-romantic, non-sexual relationships; these relationships are highlighted as being equally significant to romantic/sexual relationships and just as worth celebrating.

2. Gold that Frames the Mirror by Brandon Melendez

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Gold That Frames the Mirror, by Brandon Melendez. Write Bloody Publishing, 2019.

I first learned of Brandon Melendez after reading his poem, “Notes on Demisexuality,” which was originally published in ANMLY. The poem’s subject matter grabbed me, but Melendez’s use of language is what kept me reading. A variation of this poem resurfaces in Melendez’s collection, Gold that Frames the Mirror. The poem is titled, “Field Notes on Desire,” and it smoothly tackles the complicated nature of dating and desire for demisexuals:

I say, don’t touch.
I say, Iike anyone I want nothing more than to feel

I want to desire like the rest, to crawl through the

or into bed & be happy with whatever hand finds
because hands are good enough.

But when it comes time. When I’m supposed to
this flesh is worth the price
of teeth, I unbutton my shirt & reveal nothing but
thin wire
& a path through me.

Outside of this poem, very few (if any) of the poems in Gold that Frames the Mirror deal directly with asexuality. But that’s an important distinction — not all asexual authors write about asexuality, and very few only write about asexuality. Instead, Melendez’s poems center on themes of race, family, depression, and language. Many reference the struggles endured by his parents and grandparents, as well as the joys. What remains constant throughout the poems is Melendez’s artistry with words, found in such verses as, “I’ve learned depression / is the name we give to gravity / when we demand a diagnosis” and “ if you hold someone / at just the right angle / in front of two mirrors / they go on forever.”

There’s a lot to be said about Melendez’s poems and his use of hummingbird images, experimentation with form, and focus on the importance of word choice. Additionally, the interconnected themes of race, ethnicity, sex, and sexuality all build off one another, further informing and complicating each piece. By writing about so many aspects of his identity, Melendez’s poems supply an authentic, moving account of love, loss, longing, and the search for connection. In short, intersectionality is as important to the ace/aro community as it is to every other community, and in Melendez’s work, the concept is examined deeply and deftly.

3. Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

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Tash Hearts Tolstoy, by Kathryn Ormsbee. Simon & Schuster, 2018

Part romantic comedy, part realistic account of dating while ace, Tash Hearts Tolstoy is funny, heartwarming, and a delight to read. The book stars Tolstoy-loving Tash (pronounced like “posh”) who spends her free time recreating Tolstoy’s work as a web series. When the web series takes off, Tash and her friends are thrown headfirst into fame. They must learn to navigate this newfound celebrity status alongside their relationships, dreams, and personal identities.

Though she doesn’t have a name for it, Tash knows she’s asexual. She’s recently told her two best friends, Paul and Jack, who are supportive, but unsure what she means. She hasn’t told Thom, a fellow web series creator, whom she’s excited to finally meet in person. But she’s worried that, once he knows, any glimmer of a relationship between them will end.

Although the book markets itself as YA, an older audience can appreciate Tash Hearts Tolstoy’s humor, message, and even writing mechanics. I’m not used to seeing a YA book with such good pacing and characterization, and I found myself thoroughly engrossed in Tash’s story. Her indecision regarding when to “out” herself is relatable, and her fear of a relationship with someone allosexual was as frustrating as it was, well, relatable yet again. Additionally, several of her remarks showcase ways in which asexuals can desire romantic relationships without a sexual component. In describing a kiss, she writes, “The kiss is the boiling point. It’s what everyone waits on and cheers for. I get that, but personally? I prefer what happens before the kiss: the accidental brush of a shoulder, the spark of a stolen glance, the seemingly throwaway comment that is steeped in history and means so much more.”

Tash Loves Tolstoy isn’t only about fame and sexuality: sibling dynamics, sickness, and college fears are just a few of the other topics. The ease with which the book juggles these topics is commendable, and I found myself finishing it in one sitting. If you want a lighthearted, informative, and fun read, this book should be added to your library pronto.

As I said in my first review, representation matters. Fortunately, the ace and aro communities have started getting that representation in a real and impactful way — from authors and publishers who themselves are ace and aro. Whether you choose to pick up one of these ace books, a book from my first list, or another ace book entirely, thanks for reading — and more than that, thanks for celebrating these authors, characters, and their journeys toward understanding and embracing asexuality.


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