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1st March 2022

It’s ace being ace: a review of Ace by Angela Chen

Whether this is your first time hearing the term asexuality or you identify as asexual, Ace by Angela Chen is essential reading
It’s ace being ace: a review of Ace by Angela Chen
Photo: Ausrine Naujalyte @ The Mancunion

This UK LGBTQ+ History Month, we wanted to start a conversation about an underrepresented sexual identity and a great non-fiction book about it: Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex.

Asexuality refers to a spectrum of identities that are categorised by little-to-no sexual attraction. Asexual people are often called ace, giving Angela Chen’s book its title. Chen is an asexual journalist and writer, and Ace is her first book. 

Ace deals with a myriad of important topics such as living with asexuality, common assumptions and misconceptions, the whitewashing of ace people, and introduces many important terms to describe asexuality.

It emphasises that all asexual experiences are different and one asexual person’s preferences can be vastly different from another’s. Some people tend to immediately attach aromantic – experiencing little-to-no romantic experience – to their identity which is not the same for many asexual people. 

This book also deals with the concept of compulsory sexuality (and compulsory heterosexuality!) and how everyone’s expected to have the inherent need to be sexual, suggesting that deviance from this is wrong. Discovering asexuality helps people to understand that they are great as they are and find a community of people who can support them.

Although it’s a non-fiction book, Chen’s style is easy to read and very accessible. Ace is paced well and includes the author’s personal stories, which illustrate some of the concepts in a real ace person’s experience. Additionally, it includes many stories from ace people of different backgrounds and different experiences which gives a well-rounded introduction to this topic.

One of the key points of the book is the importance of awareness. Being aware of concepts such as asexuality can be incredibly helpful for people who feel like they are different from everyone around them.

Seeing the most famous recent example of asexual representation – Todd Chavez from TV series “BoJack Horseman” – has helped many people in finding themselves and understanding that they are perfect as they are and there’s nothing inherently wrong with them. Additionally, it has introduced many people to the concept of asexuality, even if in a surface-level way.

That’s why representation is important. If a well-known estimate is correct and 1% of population is asexual, this means that there are millions of ace people who might benefit from being aware of this identity and its community.

This book is a great starting point for anyone who wants to discover more about this identity, for both those who have a feeling they could be ace and those who do not. It does a great job of providing context, real life examples, and points of consideration about this topic.

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