ARC Review: Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

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Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

Pub. date: January 3rd, 2017
Publisher: Grove Press
Format: E-galley
ISBN: 9780802125392 
Source: Netgalley

Thanks so much to Grove Press and Netgalley for providing me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I think we can all agree that Roxane Gay is a badass, even if you base it just on how she deals with Twitter trolls. I fell in love with her voice in her first essay collection, Bad Feminist. Even though the writing wasn’t perfect, the message was powerful, and I learned so much about feminism from that book. I started following her work since then, and have yet to be disappointed. So when I saw that the ARC of this book was available on Netgalley, I didn’t hesitate to request it and was once again, blown away by this powerhouse of a writer. 

Difficult Women is a collection of twenty stories are held together by a common theme- pain. Pain, mostly from the men in their lives. This is not a collection for the faint-hearted. The women she has written in this book face so many obstacles in their quest to be independent. They strive to keep themselves together and survive as they experience abuse, like the two sisters in “I Will Follow You”, being fetishized and objectified, like Sarah does in “La Negra Blanca”, racism and microaggression, like the woman in “North Country”, counting the number of times she’s been asked “Are you from Detroit?” (which is roughly the number of times I’m asked when I’m getting married when I attend Indian weddings), the loss and the need to experience pain, like the woman in “Break All The Way Down”, after her son’s death. Some of the stories like “Requiem for a Glass Heart” and “The Sacrifice of Darkness” were speculative fiction, but the overarching theme stayed the same. Her talent for satire shines through in the title story, where she writes about women that are “loose”, “crazy”, “frigid”- her sarcasm bleeding through the page. It’s amazing. 

And the men, oh god the men. The men demonstrate that Roxane has no fucks left to give. In a refreshing change, it is the men that are one-dimensional- the misogynists, the douchebags, the assholes, the entitled pricks. Some may feel that the men are being vilified, but I didn’t feel that way. 

This book completely wreck me and validated my feelings, all at the same time. I can’t think of a woman that won’t relate to some of the garbage situations that the women in these book have to deal with, regardless of class, race, or sexual orientation. Her writing is visceral, always in extremes, and despite dealing with extremely difficult and uncomfortable subjects she doesn’t hold back. The speculative ones didn’t quite work for me, but this did not detract from my overall experience reading this book. Roxane Gay is a force to reckon with, and I can’t wait to read her memoir Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body when it comes out later this year. Meanwhile, you should definitely pick this book up. 

-J

P.S. If you’re stuck on a very long Holds list at your library or can’t buy this book, the ebook is available on Hoopla!