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Difficult Women
Cover of Difficult Women
Difficult Women

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.

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.

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About the Author-
  • Roxane Gay is the author of the novel An Untamed State; the essay collection Bad Feminist; Ayiti, a multi-genre collection; and the memoir Hunger, forthcoming from Harper in 2016. 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 Book Review, Bookforum, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, Salon, and many others. She is the co-editor of PANK.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 24, 2016
    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.

  • Kirkus

    November 1, 2016
    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.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    September 1, 2016
    Cultural force Gay, the author of both fiction (An Untamed State, an LJ Best Book) and nonfiction (the New York Times best-selling essay collection Bad Feminist), offers a group of stories whose female protagonists have challenges to surmount.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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