Roxane Gay, feminist, essayist, novelist, comic book writer, has released a new book – collection of short stories, called “Difficult Women.” The collection follows the lives of more than 20 women—from an engineer to a stripper to a woman made of glass—across the country, from Upper Michigan to a Florida subdivision. They usually got claimed difficult because of what happened to them and how it affected them.They’ve mostly been hurt, typically by living under the patriarchy and under white supremacy. 

 

Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay

Almost 20 years ago Roxane experienced some quite hard and challenging moments. She was studying at Yale and then she suddenly disappeared, she was only 19 years old. Her family knew nothing about her location.

It turned out Roxane had an online-friend, she made all the way to San Francisco to meet him. When he suggested to go to Arizona, she just went for it. Some people may think what pushed her to that: she had a lovely and supportive family, was getting good education, on the whole, her future was potentially bright. But nobody knew about her childhood’ trauma – sexual assault. Eventually, her parents tracked her location and got her home to Nebraska, where she applied to another university to finish her studies. The year had been an adventure – a liberation, but not a resolution.

Difficult Women: Roxane Gay

Difficult Women: Roxane Gay

Now Roxane Gay is 42 and for the last years she wrote countless pieces of fiction and non-fiction. She is not only a novelist, but also a researcher – she received her Ph.D. in 2010 from Michigan Technological University in Rhetoric and Technical Communication. She also holds an M.A. in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from the University of Nebraska—Lincoln. Her research interests include the intersections between race, gender, and popular culture, contemporary fiction, and the political novel.

 

Writing Difficult Women

Difficult Women: Roxane Gay

Difficult Women is a new collection of short fiction by Roxane Gay. The title of the book is a misogynist’s taxonomy of the opposite sex, the book explores the struggles of of women who, because of sex, race, class or demeanor have been silenced or deemed “difficult”: weary maids fending off advances, Latina aerobics instructors in gated communities, victims of assault, sex workers, a black engineer tired of patronizing co-workers.

“I think women are oftentimes termed ‘difficult’ when we want too much, when we ask for too much, when we think too highly of ourselves, or have any kind of standards,” Roxane explains in the interview. “I wanted to play with this idea that women are difficult, when in reality it’s generally the people around them who are the difficult ones.”

Difficult Women: Roxane Gay

Difficult Women: Roxane Gay

Speaking about herself Roxane is not afraid to be claimed a difficult woman – “If having a personality and having opinions makes me difficult, then yes, I am very difficult.”

The author mentioned a lot of urgent world problems like racial tension, gender conflict and class disparity, but at the same time she managed to bring a little bit of surrealism into her narrative. Like the story about a glass wife – “He is a flesh-and-blood man,” she writes, “going about the business of living with his glass wife and glass child, their glass furniture and glass lives.”

The theme of sex and sexual violation are also reflected in these stories. Women get injured and hurt by their past encounters. The story “I Will Follow You,” tells about two sisters who happened to be assaulted by a predator when they were children. After that accident they are bound to each other and unable to build healthy relationships in adulthood.

Difficult Women: Roxane Gay

The death is another topic that has been explored by Roxane in a short story about a dead girl. “Death makes them more interesting,” writes Gay. “Death makes them more beautiful. It’s something about their bodies on display in final repose—eyes wide open, lips blue, limbs stiff, skin cold. Finally, it might be said, they are at peace.” The dead girl is easy because she’s inert; the rest of the women in these stories are challengingly, wonderfully alive.

The violence that had been uncovered in these stories might shock and frighten, but isn’t it the point? To finally show how much pain all these “difficult” women had in their life and who actually made them so “diffuclt”.

“I think books come out when they’re supposed to, even if they don’t come out when you want them to,” Gay insists. Dark stories, then, reflect dark times? “Men write dark stories all the time, and rarely is that darkness obsessed over,” she offers. “But when women write dark, all of a sudden it’s a thing. It’s like: Why so dark? I mean, have you seen the world? It’s an appropriate response.”

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