'I Can’t Date Jesus' Best-selling Author Michael Arceneaux On Writing - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine January-March 2019 Issue

Michael Arceneaux, author of I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyoncé, is breaking barriers and assisting in bringing necessary diversity to our bookshelves. Arceneaux is all shades of amazing – he’s a black, gay, millennial man from Houston, Texas, doing his thing. When BLACK ENTERPRISE asked how he feels about the ceilings he has crashed through, he replied, “I have a habit of being extremely hard on myself because I’m always thinking about the next goal, but I have tried very hard to make sure that I take in this moment as much as possible.”

He’s also very aware of societal stigmas that keep marginalized folks back. “I’m Black, I’m gay, I’m country, and from a working-class family,” he said, adding, “I am proud of myself for getting to this point. I am also truly happy that I am helping make it easier for others like me to share their stories, and ideally, take them even further.”

Becoming The Cardi B of Lit

The New York Times best-seller list is an unfathomable dream for most authors. The allure of it has always been there, but the difficulty and rarity of it happening has left many discouraged. Arceneaux, however, says he’s honored to join this elite class of writers. “I’m fortunate and very much grateful that everything aligned the week my book was released and I was fortunate enough to make the list.” He added, “Now, other black writers, black queer, and queer writers, southern black writers, or some combination of these can cite my book in their proposals and show publishers that our stories are not niche.”

It wasn’t a stroke a luck, however. Arceneaux is a brilliant writer with a unique, hilarious style. The former Howard University grad has been writing for many years for the likes of Essence, Complex, and The Root. He has also been featured on BET, MSNBC, VH1, The Breakfast Club, and CBS.

Needless to say, he has built a solid platform and name for himself in the industry. He is a blue-tick certified, Wikipedia-page-having, New York-Times-appearing real deal. A very humble and admirably transparent real deal. He mentioned that he received the news of making the list on a terrible day,

“I was questioning aspects of my life and choices and then my agent called me while I was at the gym and everything just felt lighter in that moment. It reminded me that I am going to be okay because I always am. Also, made me think of my friend Nakisha, who always tells me to chill out because every goal I said I would achieve eventually happens.”

While so many have been grabbing his best-seller off of shelves, his parents aren’t tuned into this aspect of his life and still have not read it. The family members who have, on the other hand, are proud of him and have opened up to him in ways they hadn’t before. As for his friends, some are getting a kick out of the response he has been receiving. “I think some of my friends – like the ones who don’t live in NY – are kind of surprised at the different types of people who know I am alive. One, in particular, could not believe so many white folks showed up to a book event I did in Baltimore. My response at the time was, ‘Me either, but I told you I was gon’ crossover and become the Cardi B of lit.'”

Life Has Been No Crystal Stair

The most difficult part of the author’s journey was getting others to believe what he already knew – that there was an audience for books like his. “Getting people to believe black gay me was not ‘niche’ and finding the balance between writing to support myself and working on my book, which ideally would get me over that hump.”

Getting an agent and publisher behind him wasn’t an easy feat for Arceneaux either. “I had envisioned a book idea some eight, nine years ago, but it took a very long time to convince the people necessary to make it happen (an agent and a publisher) to get behind me.”

I Can’t Date Jesus & Future Projects

I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race and Other Reasons I Put My Faith in Beyoncé launched on July 24, 2018, from 37 Ink/Atria Books/Simon & Schuster. His publishing house describes the book as, “A timely collection of alternately hysterical and soul-searching essays about what it is like to grow up as a creative, sensitive black man in a world that constantly tries to deride and diminish your humanity.”

There have not been many books I’ve read this year that made me laugh out loud, while at the same time reflect and question the world around me. Arceneaux’s book did just that. It was both humorous and inspiring. To my surprise, he didn’t think too much about the message while writing.

“I don’t really intend anything for the reader beyond making them laugh and making them think. I knew that I set out to write the book I wish I had growing up, but I try not to think too much on what the reader will take from what I write. I like to hear them tell me. And honestly, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. So many different types of people have reached out and it means a lot because there was concern from people I met in publishing about the book — that my identity made me have limited appeal. Meanwhile, white folks in their 70s are constantly emailing me to say they love my book with plenty of references they have never heard of (like Pimp C lyrics).”

It is no surprise that so many resonate with his words. His book grabs you from the very first sentence in the dedication, sharing the story of being told by an old high school classmate that he’d end up working at Burger King because he majored in journalism. Fortunately for fans of Arceneaux’s writing, he has a new book coming out, entitled I Don’t Want to Die Poor. It will be an expansion of the themes I touched on in an essay I penned for the New York Times’ Sunday Review about my struggles with private student loans. I think we need more stories about how many of us live with that debt.”

In five years’ time, he feels that he will still be writing books, but Arceneaux has much more in mind to use his voice to help the world around him through honest dialogue and laughter. “I plan to still be writing books but, I’ll be working primarily in television. I want to write and create shows, appear on camera, etc. I want to do speaking events, too, but I love television and I really want to lend my voice to the medium. My book was just the start of what I plan to make a long life of storytelling and shaking s–t up.”

Some Final Words for Beyoncé

Arceneaux’s love for Beyoncé is clear from the very beginning of the book, when he references the span of time since he last went to church by the amount of Beyoncé albums that had come out. The mentions of Queen Bey are side-splitting and his disdain for people who do not support her (Beytheists) is equally amusing. With this in mind, I had to know what he’d want her to know if she were to read this article. “Please read my book, my Lord and gyrator and fellow Houstonian. I talk real good about you. Also: girl, can you do that rap album for me already?”

If Arceneaux intrigues you, you’d love his book and rants on Twitter.

 

Gayneté Jones

Gaynete' (Edwards) Jones is a leading Millennial mentor, motivational speaker, best-selling author, YouTuber and founder of G.A.M.E. Changing Industries. Her mission to assist Millennial women turn their passions into profit, creating a life of comfort, fulfilment and freedom for themselves, has allowed her to be featured in the likes of The Huffington Post, Success and Bliss Women Magazine, to name a few.



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