Faithful followers of my must-read, brilliantly executed, and always punctual reviews will know that I only recently discovered Roxane Gay last year, with Bad Feminist. And you will know that based on reading only that collection of essays, I will follow her to the ends of the earth, shout her name from the rooftops, aspire to be as articulate, hilarious, and honest as she, and never be dissuaded from my undying love for her.
Difficult Women is haunting and beautiful. I was nervous. My expectations were unreasonably high, and yet I also had no idea what to expect, because I’ve never until now read her fiction. The bar was pushed even higher by this. All hail Roxane Gay.
This is a collection of short stories, and if you asked me what ties them together, I would tell you DUH, IT’S THAT WOMEN ARE DIFFICULT. But the point is that we’re “difficult” for a reason, and maybe you shouldn’t be calling us difficult, but instead, how about calling us “products of our histories, which are challenging and painful and never could have produced anything other than difficult women, and also: fuck the patriarchy.”
No one has a smooth path, regardless of our individual circumstances, and we all come out on the other side of our tough experiences with scar tissue and ghosts. How would you expect anyone who has experienced trauma to behave?
Trauma takes any number of forms, and having read Bad Feminist, it’s easy to recognize in a number of these stories some of the very personal experience that Gay has herself had. But there are also such imaginative variations on this theme, she could never be accused of writing the same story multiple times and calling it a book: this is a book of short stories with enough connection to laud it as a collection, but more than enough variation to keep a girl thinking about her place in the history and legacy of “difficult women.”