31 December 2016
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
Award-winning author and powerhouse talent Roxane Gay burst onto the scene with An Untamed State—which earned rave reviews and was selected as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post, NPR, the Boston Globe, and Kirkus—and her 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 marriage of one of them. 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.
My final book of 2016.
Disclaimer: I fucking love Roxane Gay. It's basically a given that I would love Difficult Women. I'll try not to gush too much.
Difficult Women showcases all those different ways we women are "difficult". We fall in love, we fall out of love. We are fragile, we are strong. We are our own person, sometimes we depend on others. We demand respect. We are smart, we make poor decisions. Sometimes we hurt, sometimes we ask others to hurt us. We are people, real people, and that makes us difficult because we take up space.
The stories contained within Difficult Women are raw, searing, brutal gut-punches. Roxane Gay has delivered another powerhouse, but longer, collection of stories. These stories are populated by even more strong, bent-but-not-broken women who stand proudly by their older counterparts in Ayiti.
Personally, I loved the stories without fantastical elements best but that's just me. The amount that I love "North Country" more than "Requiem for a Glass Heart" is negligible, like the width of a human hair. "I am a Knife" just burns off the page. These stories are not easy and Roxane follows through with all her punches (that's a little bit of pun since one of the stories concerns a fight club for women). Yes, racism, rape, grief, faithlessness, pain, and abandonment are hard to read but that makes these stories so human. These women aren't decorative, they're real. They live and breathe and hurt and hope.
Go out and put this in your eyeballs now.
Dear FTC: I got a DRC of this collection from the publisher via Netgalley and then I bought my own copy because it arrived before Christmas.