This is my second Roxane Gay. I read Bad Feminist – a collection of essays about pop culture, feminism and gender (in)equality – in 2015 and really loved it. But I must say, Gay’s latest collection of short stories, Difficult Women, is even better.
Difficult Women is an expansive, inclusive, diverse collection of short stories about women from a wide range of backgrounds, who are going through different experiences and are from different locations throughout the world. It is a difficult book to sum up (no pun intended) because of its diversity in content – but the common thread between each story is that they all focus on different elements of womanhood. Some of the women characters come from a background of immense privilege and some of them have gone through hellish experiences such as losing a child or ongoing domestic abuse.
What I absolutely loved about this short story collection is the richness of the characters’ stories. They feel authentic, complex and gritty; they’re relevant and of this time. Roxane Gay is especially talented in creating her characters in whole in just a few pages. There isn’t one story in this collection that I thought was over-written or that isn’t based on the gritty nature of real life. Each story left me hungry for the next because I knew that once I started the next story, I’d once again be drawn into another story of which the characters flourish and Gay’s writing held my interest page after page.
This collection includes a range of different writing formats – while some stories are chapter-length, others are just a poem on one page. But each one is rich, full of meaning and crafted with the care and reality that only Roxane Gay’s writing can achieve.
As in Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay draws on her own experiences of womanhood to explore and discuss issues that are unique to being a woman: body image, relationships, work/life balance, violence, motherhood. She is inclusive to inter-sectional feminism and the different experiences of women from different backgrounds. Some of the content in these stories is quite confronting, and I thought Gay’s stories that involved mothers who were in different stages of grief from losing a child were particularly rich and gripping.
I strongly recommend this book for all adults – women and men alike; especially those of us who are interested in women’s experience in our contemporary world. I couldn’t help but think this collection is especially poignant during times of political repression for women around the globe – perhaps Gay played with the idea of calling this book ‘Nasty Women’ but thought better of it…
Have you read this collection? If so, what did you think of it? Share your opinion with me in the comments below.