I hadn’t heard of Michael Arceneaux’s I Can’t Date Jesus until taking a poll on Instagram for reading suggestions. We asked our followers for suggestions on what to read in 2019, and this came through as an April recommendation. I think mostly because of the title, all of us Bookly Katherines were immediately intrigued. I mean, titles don’t get much better than I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyoncé.
I also hadn’t heard of Arceneaux until reading this, his debut essay collection. But this is one of my favorite experiences, uncovering a new (to me) author and their work. His essays cover a range of raw experiences from flawed family dynamics, growing up in Texas, living in an oppressive culture as a gay black man, dating, to faith and Christianity, etc. I found all 15 essays raw, humorous, self-aware, and immersive. His vulnerability enriched each story. And as a privileged, hetero white female who grew up mostly overseas my life experiences have little in common with Arceneaux’s. But his writing was welcoming and intelligent, leaving the reader more aware and challenged in all the right ways. Not to mention how important it is to read authors we don’t share history with. How else do we grow as readers? Or as people?
I wouldn’t recommend reading this one in one or two sittings. Instead, I’d recommend reading it as I did; chapter by chapter spread out over the course of several weeks. It say on my bedside table where I could pick it up when I needed a respite in between A Game of Thrones chapters. It was a good balance of gritty and comical that kept me coming back. So if you’re a fan of essays, nonfiction, or memoirs I definitely recommend you add this to your list!