Yay, the streak of reading great books continues with Difficult Women, by the always-impressive Roxane Gay, which is a collection of twenty-one short (and not so short) stories about a variety of women’s lives. If you have not yet experienced her stories, you should first question everything about your life and then do yourself a great favor and pick up Bad Feminist, because it is crazy good. Roxane Gay’s specialty seems to me making me as uncomfortable as possible – definitely something that needs doing every now and again. There is almost no one else who makes me want to immediately sit down and write like she does.
The women in her stories this time are from all over the place. Some of them have terrible lives and some have great lives and some have no idea what they are doing with their lives. Most of them, like most people, are haunted by pain and by love. Some of the stories are only a few pages long and yet they convey entire lives in them. Gay has a huge talent for presenting human flaws as they are, without judgment or coddling. As a woman who has been called difficult more than once (twice? Let’s round to 100), I can appreciate the way she handles this. There are so many different stories and characters, but I would say that a week later I am still thinking about a few of them, including the story about two sisters who have bonded over a childhood trauma.
She is a hugely important feminist voice and her stark honesty is admirable. This is not a feel-good collection of stories, though. There are only a few that are not dark and a bit depressing, so fair warning if you are going in with a bad mood. I think the best way to do this – for someone with actual discipline – is to pick up the book over time and read one to two stories at a time. If I had been able to do anything other than power all the way through it because I loved the writing so much, I would have appreciated it even more. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay – Grade B