I Don't Want to Die Poor (Paperback)


By Michael Arceneaux

Atria Books, 9781982129309, 256pp.

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

List Price: 17.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


From the New York Times bestselling author of I Can’t Date Jesus, which Vogue called “a piece of personal and cultural storytelling that is as fun as it is illuminating,” comes a wry and insightful essay collection that explores the financial and emotional cost of chasing your dreams.

Ever since Oprah Winfrey told the 2007 graduating class of Howard University, “Don’t be afraid,” Michael Arceneaux has been scared to death. You should never do the opposite of what Oprah instructs you to do, but when you don’t have her pocket change, how can you not be terrified of the consequences of pursuing your dreams?

Michael has never shied away from discussing his struggles with debt, but in I Don’t Want to Die Poor, he reveals the extent to which it has an impact on every facet of his life—how he dates; how he seeks medical care (or in some cases, is unable to); how he wrestles with the question of whether or not he should have chosen a more financially secure path; and finally, how he has dealt with his “dream” turning into an ongoing nightmare as he realizes one bad decision could unravel all that he’s earned. You know, actual “economic anxiety.”

I Don’t Want to Die Poor is an unforgettable and relatable examination about what it’s like leading a life that often feels out of your control. But in Michael’s voice that’s “as joyful as he is shrewd” (BuzzFeed), these razor-sharp essays will still manage to make you laugh and remind you that you’re not alone in this often intimidating journey.

About the Author

Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard University-educated writer currently living in Harlem. Covering issues related to culture, sexuality, religion, race, and Beyoncé, Michael has written for Complex, Essence, The GuardianNew York magazine, The New York TimesThe Root, and many other publications. Additionally, he has lent his commentary to such outlets as MSNBC, NPR, SiriusXM, VH1, and Viceland.

Praise For I Don't Want to Die Poor: Essays

“There are stories that simply demand to be told and Michael Arceneaux’s is one such story. In I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyoncé, Arceneaux writes from his life as a black gay man with an uncanny strength of conviction and such fine wit. The essays collected here reveal Arceneaux at his finest, as he grapples with the very things that shape our lives – faith, family, and finding a way into the world he wants to be a part of. A must-read collection from a rising, unforgettable voice.”—Roxane Gay

"In this collection, Michael Arceneaux is as vulnerable as he is hilarious, sharp as he is shady, thoughtful as he is THOT-ty. With wit, heart, and keen self-awareness, he allows us to see him in totality and forces us to feel our way through his journey toward contentment, wholeness and reconciliation with faith and family as an unapologetically black, queer and Southern man. I know our patron saint Beyoncé would be proud!"—Janet Mock, New York Times bestselling author of Redefining Realness and Surpassing Certainty

“I Can’t Date Jesus is both a Genesis and a Revelation. As he turns his brilliant, cynical, and critical eye on his own selfhood with sustained attention, Michael Arceneaux uncovers each layer of humanity and hilarity with the same unflinching authenticity he has brought to politics and popular culture for a decade. Like his god, Beyoncé, Michael has a ‘Negro, Creole, and Texas Bama’ alchemy that will leave you weak with recognition, regret, and joy.” – Melissa Harris-Perry

“THIS BOOK IS MY BIBLE.”— Samantha Irby

“In I Can't Date Jesus, Michael Arceneaux uses humor not as a spectacle or shield, but as a razor-sharp tool to welcome us into his world, his home, and his memories. Every chapter in the book is packed with subtext and the brilliantly ruthless wit we’ve come to expect from Arceneaux. More than any book I've read recently, I heard this book as much as I read it, and most amazingly, at the same time, the book and its incredible author heard and saw the black communities that made many of us. It is brilliant.”— Kiese Laymon

“Michael's voice is so specific and so relatable—reading his book felt like reading letters from a friend I've known all my life. He isn't afraid to say the things the rest of us are too scared to say out loud. He's a rebel with hot sauce in his bag. It's hard not to smile and body roll while reading every chapter.”— Lena Waithe

"Lots of stories have been told on being a black man in American, but I Can't Date Jesus is one many haven't heard, both in print and their everyday lives. Michael Arceneaux's story about family, religion and sexuality is ultimately one about manhood, and one we must listen to more. It is funny, thoughtful, biting and most importantly, totally sincere."—Bomani Jones 

"[A] witty and powerful collection of personal essays . . . . Arceneaux’s confident voice and unapologetic sense of humor will appeal to fans of Roxane Gay.”— Publishers Weekly

“Arceneaux is as joyful as he is shrewd; his writing is affecting, whether describing the pain of his mother’s disapproval or the power of Beyoncé’s music. His moments of levity are like little rest stops on the thorny path through the loss and redefinition of faith as a gay black man. How lucky we are to have Arceneaux as our guide.” —BuzzFeed, Best Nonfiction Books of 2018

I Can’t Date Jesus will leave you cracking up with laughter and nodding your head like you’re in the front row at church….Arceneaux’s voice is insightful, witty and bold, giving us a much-needed personal narrative that challenges society to do better, as he reflects on the lessons he has learned.” —The Grio, “10 Books by Black Authors We Loved in 2018”