Roxane Gay is a difficult woman just like her characters


ROXANE GAY at the Toronto Reference Librarys Appel Salon (789 Yonge) on March 16. 7 pm. Free. Pre-register at

Check out the titles of Roxane Gays books: Untamed State, Bad Feminist, Difficult Women. All of them give you clues to who she is.

Untamed? Absolutely as a storyteller, especially in Difficult Womens short stories, shes raw, almost feral. Bad feminist? Her click-worthy blogs slam conventional feminist ideas from a feminist perspective. Difficult? The people at Simon & Schuster must think so. She pulled her next book from the publisher when they announced a book deal with alt-right blowhard Milo Yiannopoulos.

Fortunately, things havent gone completely haywire south of the border. When I ask if shes received any blowback over her tiff with S&S, she assures me that she has not been shunned by the publishing industry.

The response has been mixed, she allows in a email communication, but for the most part people have been supportive, and I have received several offers to publish my new book, How To Be Heard.

In the meantime, her recently published short story collection, Difficult Women ($36.50, Grove), is filled with characters who make bad decisions, have serious trouble maintaining love connections and often cry out literally to be hurt.

When it comes to this last element, Gay says she understands why many women seek out pain.

In these stories, the women are looking for one kind of pain to dull the intensity of another. What they yearn for, really, is peace, and theyre willing to endure anything to find that peace.

While many of Gays female characters cant bear emotional commitment, several stories deal with twins who have trouble breaking their bond.

It intrigues me, the idea of living in this world with someone who shares your genetic code and often so much more, she explains. How does such an intense connection affect someone?

Her dust-up with Simon & Schuster will doubtless not be the last time Gay actively resists the influence of Trump and his cronies.

Artists have to continue making art and we have to find ways to actively protest the dangerous policies Trump is trying to enact.

But is art ever enough?

I doubt it. But it counts for a lot. | @susangcole



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