What She Read: Difficult Women

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Every year is the year of the book but 2017 has been a hit it out of the park kind of year in the reading department.

Behold the Dreamers
You Won’t Have My Hate
Just Mercy
The Sobbing School (Poetry)
Around the Way Girl: A Memoir
Whatever Happened to Interracial Love
The Southern Education of a Jersey Girl

Even I’m impressed I’ve gotten through so many books 4 months into the year. Usually in January, when I’m amped up by all the new year’s resolution hype, there’s one blockbuster that sets the bar unattainably high for anything else I’ll read the remainder of the year. So when I finished Just Mercy, I held my breath as I picked up Roxane Gay‘s Difficult Women. This streak can only last so long, right?


I have done myself a disservice by not reading Roxane Gay sooner. There is me before Roxane Gay and me after. I’m a changed reader, writer, and, dare I say, human being, in the wake of her words. 

Difficult Women is a collection of short stories about ordinary women who have crossed paths with the dark parts of life. It’s important to point out these stories are less about the thing that happened to them and more about how they carry their tragedy with them as they walk through the world. The protagonists we encounter have survived rape, sexual harassment, the death of a child, infidelity, domestic violence – cards no one wants to be dealt. But surviving doesn’t mean they’re on the other side of it. It just means they have to figure out how to navigate a world that stops for no one while piecing themselves back together. It’s complicated and messy and painful.

It’s all of us, really.

Gay’s writing is concise and to the point, unfolding the stories at the pace of life. The female characters she’s created are complex, broken and pretending to be whole. They are wounded. They rub salt in the wound and call it healing, sometimes they just let themselves ache. But they’re f i n e. The men in the stories are very clearly painted as either a soft place to land or a cross to bear. I don’t believe she’s saying men can’t be complex beings but in a societal context, that’s all that’s expected of them – good guy or bad guy, no more, no less. It’s masterful how she’s created these moving stories that make such a profound yet subtle commentary on our culture and attitude towards women. I cannot encourage you enough to read this book. I intend to read it many times more.

This is the first book by Roxane Gay I’ve read but I’ve been a fan for awhile because of treasures like this one on Magic Mike XXL. You might also enjoy this interview with Gay on one of my favorite podcasts, Nerdette.

Meanwhile, I’ve also started these gems and they are shaping up to be pretty stellar, too.

The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion
Present Over Perfect
In The Company Of Women
The Muslim Next Door
Men Explain Things To Me

At this point, you might be asking yourself, “How the heck are you reading so many books at once?” I ask myself this often. I don’t mean to but I’ll be deep in one book and head to the library and I have no idea how to walk out of that place without a book. It’s an addiction I don’t plan on fixing. Not only do I have those books above waiting to be finished, I also have these lined up waiting to be started.

The Awakened Family
Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World
You Are A Badass
Bad Feminist

Indeed, the year of the book. So far light on fiction but the year is young. What are you reading?

ps. Dear friend and fellow bookworm, Jessica, hit publish on this post earlier this week with her winter book recommendations. She writes for Book Riot and I trust her book taste. You should too.

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