I have read Let’s Talk About Love twice and fallen in love with it each time.
In light of Asexual Awareness Week, now seems like the perfect season to share my thoughts on it. With its beautiful cover featuring a joyous dark-skinned Black girl and her 4C afro, Let’s Talk About Love is exactly the kind of magnet I’m pulled towards in a bookstore. It screams #BlackGirlJoy, subtly cloaked in the asexual flag colors, and it definitely delivers.
In this debut novel, Claire Kann wraps up themes of self-discovery, coming out, and the importance of communication in a lighthearted and humorous package portrayed by an utterly endearing protagonist.
All Alice wants is to spend the summer with her best friends, earn some extra cash working at the library, and avoid the endless phone calls from her lovingly overbearing family, who is hounding her to finally declare a major (preferably in the law department). But her modest plans become increasingly complicated as her love life both peaks and plummets through her attempts to figure out exactly where she stands on the queer spectrum and what it means for her future.
In case you haven’t guessed, Alice is asexual — a fact that not every potential partner is on board with. This was made clear after a stinging breakup with her last girlfriend, who was convinced that Alice’s lack of sexual desire meant that she would never be able to fully love someone. Ouch. But now the freshly single Alice has eyes for her cute new coworker, Takumi. He seems to be the whole package: gorgeous, kind, and thoroughly committed to becoming her new personal chef. As their bond deepens, Alice can’t help but wonder if Takumi could learn to love an ace girl like her, and — more importantly — if he’ll let her love him.
Kann’s writing is fun. It’s light-hearted, enjoyable, and just downright cute most of the time. This book was one of my first introductions to the NA (New Adult) genre. A step above YA, NA is largely a transitionary genre that focuses on actual young adults (typically 18–24), as opposed to underage teens. Like YA, there’s a similar tone established with the protagonist being the relatable center point and their voice being a signature element of the writing. But the themes of NA fiction are often a bit more complex and sometimes more explicit. This is a book about relationships and exploring the different types of love in various dynamics — friendships, significant others, family. Alice and Takumi create a very nuanced dialogue surrounding love and sex, the relationship between the two, and the necessity of each to romantic relationships. The way Kann conveys romance and intimacy without relying on physicality is immensely impressive.
As a young Black woman, I loved Alice’s softness. Growing up inundated with fluffy love stories starring the white “Every Girl,” it was refreshing to see so many of the lovable traits that are often exclusive to white protagonists finally made visible in a character more like me. Alice is fun and kind and quirky and thoughtful. She is the kind of Black girl that I have met over and over again in real life, but that I never see portrayed in media. Sweet, not sassy. Adorable, not aggressive.
Alice’s biromanticism also added another layer of visibility for me personally as a bisexual Black woman. While I’m not an authority to comment on the authenticity of Alice’s experiences to that of the asexual community, I will say that it feels like Kann did a great job of distinguishing the elements of Alice’s experience that are an aspect of her asexuality and those that are unique to her as an individual, like her feelings toward kissing, hugs, and other types of physical affection outside of sex.
If you’re not into romance stories…well, why not? Personally, romance is not a genre that I often seek out, but between this and a few other choice selections, I’m starting to come around. Dark and gritty tends to win the day in a lot of popular forms of media. This book was a welcome reminder that cute and sweet definitely have their place. So many narratives surrounding LGBTQIA+ fiction are cloaked in tragedy and suffering that offer no reprieve from the tragedy and suffering that comes with existing in a largely multi-phobic world. The joy and love that exists in diverse communities deserve more time in the spotlight.
Alice’s journey offers some nuanced insight into asexuality and what it means to truly love someone. This is my highest recommendation for anyone looking to add a little sweetness to their reading list. Kann’s refreshing take on the meaning of love and intimacy brings some beautiful light into the realm of LGBTQIA+ fiction that is enjoyable for readers on every end of the spectrum.