Difficult Womenby Roxane Gay
Award-winning author and powerhouse talent Roxane Gay burst onto the scene with An Untamed State and the New York Times bestselling essay collection Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial). Gay returns with Difficult Women, a collection of stories of rare force and beauty, of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human/i>/i>/i>/i>
Award-winning author and powerhouse talent Roxane Gay burst onto the scene with An Untamed State and the New York Times bestselling essay collection Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial). Gay returns with Difficult Women, a collection of stories of rare force and beauty, of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection.
The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail. A pair of sisters, grown now, have been inseparable ever since they were abducted together as children, and must negotiate the elder sister's marriage. A woman married to a twin pretends not to realize when her husband and his brother impersonate each other. A stripper putting herself through college fends off the advances of an overzealous customer. A black engineer moves to Upper Michigan for a job and faces the malign curiosity of her colleagues and the difficulty of leaving her past behind. From a girls’ fight club to a wealthy subdivision in Florida where neighbors conform, compete, and spy on each other, Gay delivers a wry, beautiful, haunting vision of modern America reminiscent of Merritt Tierce, Jamie Quatro, and Miranda July.
Gay (Bad Feminist) pens a powerful collection of short stories about difficult, troubled, headstrong, and unconventional women. “I Will Follow You” tracks the bond of two adult sisters who refuse to live in fear after being kidnapped and assaulted as young girls. In “The Mark of Cain,” a wife pretends not to know that her abusive husband has swapped places with his kinder identical twin, who doesn’t beat her. The darkly humorous title story outlines the traits of different types of “difficult women” in flash-style vignettes. A jilted woman recovering from delivering a stillborn child finds love far from her home and past in “North Country.” And in “Break All the Way Down,” a couple learns to overcome their guilt and grief over the death of their son when they are handed a new child by a mother who can’t care for her. Whether focusing on assault survivors, single mothers, or women who drown their guilt in wine and bad boyfriends, Gay’s fantastic collection is challenging, quirky, and memorable. Agent: Maria Massie, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. (Jan.)
Praise for Difficult Women:
“The characters who inhabit Difficult Women . . . aren’t just characters. They are our mothers, sisters and partners. They are human. They are us . . . Gay manages to capture entire lifetimes, painstakingly sketching women, the underlying drives that give them their shape and the indignities that color the lenses through which they see the world . . . These are real stories about real experiences and women seeking, deserving happy endings. They aren’t victims but survivors. Gay makes mosaics out of these women, seeing them as perfectly imperfect wholes in a world that routinely tries to break them down to pieces.” USA Today (4/4 stars)
“Gay has fun with these ladies. Her narrative games aren’t rulesy. She plays with structure and pacing . . . She moves easily from first to third person, sometimes within a single story. She creates worlds that are firmly realist and worlds that are fantastically far-fetched . . . With Difficult Women, you really have no idea what’s going to happen next.” New York Times Book Review
“The real gift to readers in Difficult Women is [Gay’s] ability to marry her well-known intellectual concerns with good storytelling . . . Gay excels in her allowance for human complexity . . . One of the book’s greatest achievements is Gay’s psychological acuity in the creation of female characters who are teeming with dissonance and appealing self-awareness . . . In a dark and modern way, this collection celebrates the post-traumatic enlightenment of women.” Washington Post
“In these bittersweet lives, Gay finds fierce tenacity that bends but doesn’t always break . . . Because Gay is such a vivid writer, her stories have a remarkable visual sweep. She puts her readers there . . . Gay’s women are complicated, broken in places, and misdirected . . . In Difficult Women, Gay gives these often-overlooked lives color and meaning. From a ramshackle Michigan trailer park to the affluence and ennui of a gated community in Florida and myriad points in between Gay writes of chances missed and unexpected joy, love gone awry or resurrected, and the slivers of hope that keep these fascinating women alive.” Boston Globe
“Gay’s signature dry wit and piercing psychological depth make every story mesmerizingly unusual and simply unforgettable.” Harper Bazaar
“The stories, phenomenally powerful and beautifully written, demonstrate the threats so many women in reality face, but also how, whatever their situation, they have agency, resilience and identities away from stereotypes created and reinforced by men.” The Guardian (UK)
“This collection begs for a slow, serious reading.” Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Gay expands her writing prowess with this collection featuring colorful women protagonists . . . Refreshing yet intricate . . . This work will appeal to lovers of literary and feminist fiction.”Library Journal (starred review)
“Gay brings the powerful voice that flows through her work as a novelist and cultural critic to the 21 short stories in her first collection . . . Gay’s ‘difficult women’ are unforgettable.” BBC.com
“Gay tells intimate, deep, wry tales of jaggedly dimensional women . . . Be they writer, scientist, or stripper, Gay’s women suffer grave abuses, mourn unfathomable losses, love hard, and work harder.”Booklist
“A powerful collection of short stories about difficult, troubled, headstrong, and unconventional women . . . Whether focusing on assault survivors, single mothers, or women who drown their guilt in wine and bad boyfriends, Gay’s fantastic collection is challenging, quirky, and memorable.”Publishers Weekly
“A collection of short stories that will make your spine tingle with intrigue.” Bustle.com
“Astonishing, arresting, and staggering.”Book Riot
“Unified in themethe struggles of women claiming independence for themselvesbut wide-ranging in conception and form . . . Gay is an admirable risk-taker in her exploration of women’s lives and new ways to tell their stories.”Kirkus Reviews
New York Times best-selling writer Gay presents a collection of short stories, her second after 2011's brilliant Ayiti. (LJ 12/16)
A collection of stories unified in theme—the struggles of women claiming independence for themselves—but wide-ranging in conception and form.The women who populate this collection from the novelist and essayist Gay (Bad Feminist, 2014, etc.) are targets for aggressions both micro and macro, from the black scholar in "North Country" who receives constant unwelcome advances and questions of "Are you from Detroit?" to the sisters brutally held in captivity while teenagers in the bracing and subtle "I Will Follow You." Gay savvily navigates the ways circumstances of gender and class alter the abuses: "Florida" is a cross-section of the women in a wealthy development, from the aimless, neglected white housewives to the Latina fitness trainer who's misunderstood by them. The men in these stories sometimes come across as caricatures, archetypal violent misogynist-bigots like the wealthy white man playing dress-up with hip-hop culture and stalking the student/stripper in "La Negra Blanca." But again, Gay isn't given to uniform indictments: "Bad Priest" is a surprisingly tender story about a priest and the woman he has an affair with, and "Break All the Way Down" is a nuanced study of a woman's urge for pain in a relationship after the loss of her son. Gay writes in a consistently simple style, but like a longtime bar-band leader, she can do a lot with it: repeating the title phrase in "I Am a Knife" evokes the narrator's sustained experience with violence, and the title story satirizes snap judgments of women as "loose," "frigid," and "crazy" with plainspoken detail. When she applies that style to more allegorical or speculative tales, though, the stories stumble: "Requiem for a Glass Heart" is an overworked metaphorical study of fragility in relationships; "The Sacrifice of Darkness" is ersatz science fiction about the sun's disappearance; "Noble Things" provocatively imagines a second Civil War but without enough space to effectively explore it. Not every story works, but Gay is an admirable risk-taker in her exploration of women's lives and new ways to tell their stories.
- Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
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- 5.70(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.10(d)
Meet the Author
Roxane Gay is the author of the novel An Untamed State, which was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Fiction; the essay collection Bad Feminist; Ayiti, a multi-genre collection; and the memoir Hunger, forthcoming from Harper. She is at work on a memoir, Hunger, and a comic book in Marvel’s Black Panther series. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, West Branch, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, the New York Times, the Guardian, Bookforum, Time, the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, Salon, and many others. She is a recipient of the PEN Center USA Freedom to Write Award, among other honors. She splits her time between Indiana and Los Angeles.
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