Award-winning author and powerhouse talent Roxane Gay burst onto the scene with An Untamed State and the New York Times bestselling essay collection Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial). Gay returns with Difficult Women, a collection of stories of rare force and beauty, of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection.
The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail. A pair of sisters, grown now, have been inseparable ever since they were abducted together as children, and must negotiate the elder sister’s marriage. A woman married to a twin pretends not to realize when her husband and his brother impersonate each other. A stripper putting herself through college fends off the advances of an overzealous customer. A black engineer moves to Upper Michigan for a job and faces the malign curiosity of her colleagues and the difficulty of leaving her past behind. From a girls’ fight club to a wealthy subdivision in Florida where neighbors conform, compete, and spy on each other, Gay delivers a wry, beautiful, haunting vision of modern America reminiscent of Merritt Tierce, Jamie Quatro, and Miranda July.
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
Publication Date: January 3, 2017 by Grove Press
When I was a girl, my father once told me that women weren’t good for much
I have been a fan of Roxane Gay since I first read her novel, An Untamed State. Her writing is sharp and unapologetic. She is able to write about the most dark and uncomfortable topics (physical violence, rape, poverty, etc.) in a way that lets the importance of writing about those issues shine through all the disgust and discomfort that the reader may feel. Gay raises plenty of questions about how men treat women (and also how women treat women as well as themselves!) that her fiction is just as effective as her essays and non-fiction work.
Difficult Women is one of the best collections of short fiction that I have read yet. The women Roxane Gay writes about are real – honest, flawed, unapologetic, at times broken or damaged, but also equally resilient and courageous. She covers a wide range of women and topics, but yet all of her stories seem to slowly intertwine with one another. There are hints of past characters and experiences as the stories progress and although they all stand alone, there is a certain flow to the collection from start to finish.
Some of the stories in Difficult Women are absolutely heartbreaking (“I Will Follow You”, “Break All the Way Down”) while others blur the line of fantasy (“Requiem for a Glass Heart”, “I Am a Knife”, “The Sacrifice of Darkness”). Two particular stories that haunted me, but yet had a glimmer of hope to them were “North Country” and “Strange Gods” – I intend to re-read these in the future.
There’s something to be said for an author whose fiction is just as memorable and thought-provoking as her non-fiction work. Roxane Gay has quickly become one of my favorite authors so thank you Netgalley and Grove Press for giving me this opportunity to read Gay’s newest book before its release date next year!