Tuesday, May 26, 2020

ARC review: ACE by Angela Chen

From the blurb:

An engaging exploration of what it means to be asexual in a world that's obsessed with sexual attraction, and what we can all learn about desire and identity by using an ace lens to see the world

What exactly is sexual attraction and what is it like to go through the world not experiencing it? What does asexuality reveal about consent, about compromise, about the structures of society? This exceedingly accessible guide to asexuality shows that the issues that aces face—confusion around sexual activity, the intersection of sexuality and identity, navigating different needs in relationships—are conflicts that all of us need to address as we move through the world.

Through interviews, cultural criticism, and memoir, ACE invites all readers to consider big-picture issues through the lens of asexuality, because every place that sexuality touches our world, asexuality does too.

Journalist Angela Chen uses her own journey of self-discovery as an asexual person to unpretentiously educate and vulnerably connect with readers, effortlessly weaving analysis of sexuality and societally imposed norms with interviews of ace people. Among those included are the woman who had blood tests done because she was convinced that "not wanting sex" was a sign of serious illness, and the man who grew up in an evangelical household and did everything "right," only to realize after marriage that his experience of sexuality had never been the same as that of others. Also represented are disabled aces, aces of color, non-gender-conforming aces questioning whether their asexuality is a reaction against stereotypes, and aces who don't want romantic relationships asking how our society can make room for them.

Heather's rating:

I'm always striving to grow as a person and expand my knowledge base, and the one area of queer spectrum that I probably need the most education in is asexuality. I've read nearly two dozen romance books with asexual characters, but I've never read a non-fiction book about asexuality until now.

As someone who is far removed from the asexual world, I was really interested to learn more about asexuality from a more nuanced perspective. And I was really impressed by how Angela Chen approached the topic. Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex is a dense, diverse, queer, feminist, and interesting book on asexuality and it's cultural, personal, and historical significance.

I had never considered some of Angela Chen's talking points before. For example, she goes into details about how feminism and asexuality intersect, and how the focus on sexual liberation and therefore the heightened emphasis on more sex and more partners somehow became linked to being more "feminist" in many people's minds.

She also going into detail about the complicated relationships between physical and mental disabilities and asexuality, and about race and age in the asexual community. There was a lot to unpack.

I enjoyed how the author wove in personal stories from multiple sources, including herself. I also liked how she explored concepts that I find personally challenging to understand, like romantic love vs platonic love when attraction isn't involved.

Though I found the story to be very interesting, I also found it to be dense and a bit clunky to get through. I read it between other books, at times unable to put it down and at other times struggling to keep my attention, which might just be a product of reading a non-fiction, more didactic type of story. However, overall, it was a very rewarding read for me, and I think it greatly furthered my understanding of the nuances of asexuality.

A great read for those who are asexual or those who just want to learn more about asexuality, I would highly recommend Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex.

*Copy provided in exchange for an honest review*

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Enjoy, everyone!

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