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 gives voice to a chorus of unforgettable women in a scintillating collection reminiscent of Merritt Tierce, Jamie Quatro, and Miranda July.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Roxane Gay’s writing appears in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, Harper’s Bazaar, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many others. She is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times. She is the author of the books “Ayiti,” “An Untamed State,” the New York Times bestselling “Bad Feminist,” the nationally bestselling “Difficult Women” and New York Times bestselling “Hunger: A Memoir of My Body”. She is also the author of “World of Wakanda” for Marvel.
Q&A with Roxane
Why did you write Difficult Women?
I wrote the stories in Difficult Women over several years. I brought those stories together as a collection because I saw a really interesting connective thread between all the stories, how they largely focused on women who might be seen as difficult but were mostly independent and complicated and interesting.
What was the most challenging thing about writing this book?
The most challenging thing was what is challenging with every book — finding the confidence to send these stories out into the world and make myself vulnerable like that. These stories are all fiction but they mean something to me, and carry in them a part of me.
How might fiction help us to explore contemporary issues?
For whatever reason, fiction works in interesting ways to bring about empathy and empathy goes a long way in helping people to try and understand the lives of others, the issues people face. There is also a comfortable distance provided by fiction and in that distance people can grapple with real, contemporary issues in ways they choose not to otherwise.
What book(s) have made you see the world differently? How?
Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker opened my eyes and my heart in so many ways. It is such a beautiful book about such an intimate, painful subject, female genital mutilation, and I love the courage of the ending, both in terms of what the protagonist does and how the writer allows the protagonist that ending. I learned so much as a person and a writer from this novel.