• Ace

  • What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex
  • By: Angela Chen
  • Narrated by: Natalie Naudus
  • Length: 7 hrs and 43 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (377 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An engaging exploration of what it means to be asexual in a world that's obsessed with sexual attraction, and what the ace perspective can teach all of us about desire and identity.

What exactly is sexual attraction, and what is it like to go through life not experiencing it? What does asexuality reveal about gender roles, about romance and consent, and the pressures of society? This accessible examination of asexuality shows that the issues that aces face - confusion around sexual activity, the intersection of sexuality and identity, navigating different needs in relationships - are the same conflicts that nearly all of us will experience. Through a blend of reporting, cultural criticism, and memoir, Ace addresses the misconceptions around the "A" of LGBTQIA and invites everyone to rethink pleasure and intimacy.

Journalist Angela Chen creates her path to understanding her own asexuality with the perspectives of a diverse group of asexual people. Vulnerable and honest, these stories include a woman who had blood tests done because she was convinced that "not wanting sex" was a sign of serious illness, and a man who grew up in a religious household and did everything "right", only to realize after marriage that his experience of sexuality had never been the same as that of others. Disabled aces, aces of color, gender-nonconforming aces, and aces who both do and don't want romantic relationships all share their experiences navigating a society in which a lack of sexual attraction is considered abnormal. Chen's careful cultural analysis explores how societal norms limit understanding of sex and relationships and celebrates the breadth of sexuality and queerness.

©2020 Angela Chen (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“[Ace] is a [thoughtful] combination of reportage, cultural criticism and memoir, and the writing attempts the difficult balance between proof and emotion. [Most striking is] Chen’s honesty, the sentences of intimate reflection that appear in the margins of her argument throughout.” —The New York Times 

Ace is a fantastic starting point for dismantling harmful sexual narratives and reimagining human connection as a broader, more equitable, enjoyable and free experience.” —Washington Post 

“The book allows us to imagine how much more we could get from our relationships if we were able to free ourselves from restrictive ideas of what we’re supposed to feel and do.” —Rhaina Cohen, NPR 

What listeners say about Ace

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Thank you, Angela!

Listening to this book was a great help, comfort, and at times a motivator. As someone who identifies as ace and as “????” for about everything else, this book helped me feel assured that “this isn’t just me”. I heard myself in this book. It was as though I was reading descriptions of myself, my own experiences, thoughts and feelings. I felt so validated. It relieved me, because now I’m much more certain in at least one aspect of myself.
This entire book is full of well formulated and drawn out trains of thoughts, and I found myself thinking one thing constantly: “I wholeheartedly agree!”

I initially went into this experience hoping to find a book to hand off to family and friends to say “read this, this will make you understand”, but I’m not so sure it will work on my people, personally. The downfall of this book - though the “downfall” isn’t more than a small downward step in an otherwise mountainous work - is the advancement level of the lingo used, plus the amount of (though rightfully needed and relevant) adjacent political topics. For someone who isn’t ace, isn’t as politically enlightened and very normative and sheltered (such as my parents), I’m afraid this book will be a bit too much all at once. All the new terminology that’s so quickly crash-coursed, could potentially overwhelm, and if you’re likely to get lost already, the many political digressions might derail the intention I wanted to see from this book: which was to simply validate asexuality as an orientation.
Now, I need to point out that, firstly, this was my personal hope for the book; secondly, the ability to keep up with the thread will vary depending on pre-obtained knowledge plus native language (my parents not being native to an English speaking country), and thus I’m coming from a place of hoping for a very easy/straight forward book; and thirdly, I am so pleased with every single topic that was brought up regardless, because it belonged there, built on and enriched the map Angela Chen attempted to draw of ace’s place in our society. Asexuality does after all not exist in a vacuum, and so what she decided to write - which is a vast and impressive coverage of asexuality and its societal identity - was much more important than the “asexuality for dummies” I was initially hoping for.

I might still be on the lookout for something to hand to my parents - and this book will be one of them, once they’re more advanced in their understanding - but what I did get, I value so deeply: help to accept myself more. To feel less “broken” and alone. If you ever read this, Angela: thank you.

I recommend this to every ace or questioning, as well as anyone who found this when searching to educate themselves. Basically to anyone with some basic knowledge on the topic.

10 people found this helpful

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Counter intuitive

If you’re curious about Asexuality this book is insightful but if you don’t care for human sexuality it’s going to be hard to listen to the narrator who’s voice sounds like a sex operator. It’s like nails on a chalkboard.

6 people found this helpful

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This book made my whole life make sense!

THANK YOU Angela Chen for putting into words what I never could until now! Your work on this subject has made my personal life (or lack thereof, depending on how you look at it *wink wink*) feel like a treasure trove of possibilities. When my childhood friends pretended to get married and play house, I wanted to play dinosaur instead. I didn’t understand the appeal. When they started putting up Leonardo DiCaprio posters, rather than pretend to take care of imaginary horses with me, I felt like an alien. All the frustrating intimate encounters I have had that felt not entirely consensual, but not entirely coerced either, all make sense now. Everything. Thank you a million times over for opening this door for me. I truly hope your book will empower more and more people, ace and not, to explore this subject in depth. We need it.

5 people found this helpful

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EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK

Such a helpful and inspiring book for aces, but also very helpful for allos! This book is full of stories from so many different perspectives

3 people found this helpful

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The reader is awful

Thought to get this and listen along with reading but I couldn’t get past the terribly pointed, almost robotic voice of the reader.
Would recommend the book,NOT the audiobook.

3 people found this helpful

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Validation

I’ve been identifying as ace for a little over a year now and this book is exactly what I needed to hear. I experience a lot of imposter syndrome (as do many aces) and this book did a very good job of validation the relationships and emotions I’ve grown through. The last few chapters raised a lot of questions about myself and I am start looking deeper into the aro/ace community.

2 people found this helpful

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Best book in asexuality out

It's great, feels cathartic and discusses everything I wanted it to about asexuality in relation to social pressures and relationships.

2 people found this helpful

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a great look in sexuality for everyone

as a asexual I relate to this, but it gives a great veiw of sexuality and brakes it down.

1 person found this helpful

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Never Have I Ever Felt So Seen

This was a beautiful inside look into the community. It's much more complex living outside of the box, when most of the world live in it.

I felt seen by this and I'm glad I was able to read it during ACE Week this year.

10/10 will recommend.

1 person found this helpful

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MUST READ!!!

Loved this book and all the wide perspectives and stories in it! Even if you don't identify as Ace, I would suggest reading!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-22-22

mindful

hi. my best friend whom listened to this book recently came out as ace and I want to listen to the book that has open this door to her. I am (or currently think I am) a staight white man. this book has gave me so much to think on and new information to process. I think it's a good addition to anyones read.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Oscar Would
  • 08-07-22

Best book on asexuality

Best thing I've read about asexuality - nuanced, empathetic, political. This book is accessible to anyone on the aro/spec or other people trying to understand asexuality, aromanticism or the split attraction model.

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  • richard leevers
  • 04-18-22

It's not propaganda

Came in to better understand a friend more deeply and widely. Came out thinking I'm probably aromantic (and that it doesn't mean I'm uncaring or cold).

My expectations were that the book would be typical leftist propaganda--to point all blame at social and societal structures and here's yet another reason to burn it all to the ground--but I'm glad I'm wrong. It's a far more insightful and careful view that aims to help people reflect upon who they are. To let you have an informed decision and autonomy over what you want to do with your body. And to highlight alienation felt by both aces and allos. There's more but those were my top 3 takeaways.

All of this to just to understand ourselves and others better, and recommend guidelines for future interactions and relationships.

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  • Janine
  • 06-16-21

Should be compulsory reading

Excellent book! Should be compulsory reading for everyone, not only people who are (or think they could be) on the Ace spectrum. Very sensitive and objective look at the complex nature of sexuality and relationships.

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  • Josie
  • 06-10-21

Perfect

I could cry at how perfect this book is. Chen explores so many different subjects and how they intersect with asexuality, including romantic attraction (or lack of), race, gender, and disability. The book is sensitive but unflinching. If recommend it to all aces and to allos interested in learning what asexuality means.

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  • Holly Smith
  • 03-27-21

Good focus on intersectionality, poor performance

Very much appreciated how Ace causes complexities when matched with different backgrounds and perspectives.

Either side of that, there was a lot of focus on sex (ironically) which I couldn’t relate to at all and would recommend skipping if you’re actually ace.

There was this attitude that “we’re not *all* celibate” as if there was something wrong with it, which did rub me the wrong way.

Delivery sounds very generic, like an advert or instructional video going on for too long. I had to speed up to 1.3x to make it sound more like a human talking to me.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-25-21

Great book

It is a beautiful book that everyone should read. It is truly amazing. The stories within are beautiful.

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  • Mia Radic
  • 01-21-21

Fascinating

As an Ace I found this absolutely fantastic.
As a person I found the insight into the way that sex influences so much of our lives in so many different ways incredibly informative and fascinating.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Daniel
  • 11-07-20

ExceIlent read

A great analysis of asexuality and what it means to be Ace. Well worth reading.

2 people found this helpful