My introduction to Roxane Gay was through her novel Untamed State which my book club read and which has stayed with me since I read it. I then read her essays in Bad Feminist and began to follow her on Twitter. I saw her speak at the Free Library of Philadelphia last month when I had started, but not finished her latest offering, a collection of short stories titled Difficult Women. Given that I’ve read a lot of what she has published, I think it’s safe to say I’m a fan.
The stories in Difficult Women run the gamut, from humorous to thought-provoking to unsettling. The thread that ties them together is the grit and “I don’t give any fucks” attitudes of at least one woman in each story. Some of the stories verged on the edge of disturbing, but that lead to me to question why and included a little examination into my own ideas, experiences and beliefs. As always, Gay pushes us to think outside the box of our limited, first-person experiences.
Her last two stories are probably the strongest. In Noble Things, the penultimate story, she imagines an America divided (again) into North and South by a fence with Florida, Texas and parts of the Midwest seceded from the Union. Given today’s political environment, that feels closer than ever to reality.
In Strange Gods she explores the story of a young woman who has been hurt by men from a young age and the impact that has on her ability to trust and expect from a partner. It is raw and like Untamed State, I think will be the story that stays with me the longest.
Like she is on Twitter, I don’t think her stories are for everyone, but if you are looking for thoughtful, provoking stories, look no further.