Roxane Gay is a literary force. She’s been teaching, writing and editing for nearly two decades; has founded her own literary press (Tiny Hardcore Press); has published a novel and a book of essays in the same year (2015) to widespread acclaim and two books of short stories.
Difficult Women, her latest short story collection, was released in January of this year. When it came across my desk, I was both thrilled and timid. If anyone knows how to write, it’s Gay, but I’m also a creative writing major who oversaturated herself in literary works and turned up her nose at pop fiction until, well, I realized I kind of likean easy, entertaining read. I’ve often bought short story collections and found their writing magnificent, but somehow put them to the side in favor of something that better grabbed my attention and offered cheerier outlook for the world. I really wanted to like Difficult Women, but I knew that Gay tackles tough topics like rape, abuse, violence and grief. I wasn’t sure, in an already ugly year, I’d be able to handle it.
Much to my surprise, Difficult Women was an absolute pleasure to read. While it tackled hard subjects, it did so with a level of empathy, patience and even hope that gave me more faith in human resiliency.