Toronto Life

A novel remix of the Bible

- By Anthony Milton



from toronto comic book writer, multiple National Magazine Award– winner and theology podcaster Anthony Oliveira comes a truly original, genrebendi­ng new novel with a surprising inspiratio­n: the Bible. Dayspring is a collection of queer, erotic and deeply moving love stories about prophets, saints and disciples. It draws from the author’s life and 2,000 years of theology, blending the sacred and historical with the intimately personal. We spoke with Oliveira about faith, love and queering Christiani­ty.

The stories in this book are told out of order. Why write it that way?

That’s how memory works: we remember the events of our lives as they come to us, not in chronologi­cal order. It’s also how many Christian readers encounter these stories: not in the order they were written but according to whatever sermon was given at church that week. I wanted to steal from that experience to make the reader encounter these narratives in new ways.

What are some of the narratives? There’s the story of David and Jonathan, from the Hebrew bible. It’s a love story, but because it’s often presented in fragments, many people miss what it’s really about. There are also narratives from the Book of Revelation and various saints. And then, of course, there’s the story of the death and resurrecti­on of Christ.

Your own story is also in the book.

I’ve known for a long time that this was going to be a story I would tell—I wrote two of the scenes when I was 16. One of the aims of this book is to archive queer desire and its relationsh­ip to the Christiani­ty I grew up with. I went to an all-boys Catholic school and was an altar boy, and my parents hoped I would be a priest one day. I think you have to come to faith by wrestling with it, and this text is a history of that wrestling.

How does Toronto figure into it all?

It’s a very Toronto book. The narrator walks along the waterfront and sees cormorants and sumac trees, and there’s one scene that clearly takes place on the cruising grounds at Cherry Beach. There’s another scene in which the disciple and Christ are caught making out in a bar window, and there’s only one window in the city it could be—let’s just say I worked at Glad Day Bookshop for a while.

You’ve written a gay love story about Christ and other biblical figures. Some people may get riled up about that.

It’s funny to imagine people being mad about any depiction of a Christ who is loving. If there’s anything worth saving about Christiani­ty—and maybe there isn’t—it’s the idea that God was once a human being, and therefore there’s nothing about us that is unworthy of love.

There are also some surprising­ly funny passages, like Jesus screaming at a fig tree for “like, forty-five minutes.” How did you find humour in the Bible?

The Bible is funny! That part is from the Gospel of Mark, and right after it, there’s a line that says, “And his disciples heard it.” It’s right out of The Office, where it pans to the people listening and they’re all making eye contact.

Your side gig is writing Marvel comics. How do these interests fit together?

When I was a kid, I prayed a lot that I wouldn’t be queer. I remember one X-Men cartoon in which a mutant observes people who hate her and asks, “What’s wrong with me, then?” Either she’s wrong or they are. Pop culture gave me a way to understand my experience: the belief system she inherited was flawed, and so was mine.

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