#FoylesFave: Difficult Women
Elodie from the Web Team tells us why Roxane Gay's newly published Difficult Women is both a challenging and rewarding read.
Until I read Difficult Women, I didn’t think of Roxane Gay as a fiction writer. In my head, she was the author of Bad Feminist, the essay collection I wished I had written, and the protagonist of many discussions, speeches and interviews I devoured on Youtube. OK, so I had read an extract of her novel, An Untamed State… but had quickly proceeded to run away from it. The same intensity of subject matter and style that had drawn me to her non-fiction suddenly felt a bit too overwhelming in fiction form. But then I heard that her new book, Difficult Women, was a collection of short stories, and I figured it was a safer format for me to discover her storytelling.
I was wrong about that of course, but I really enjoyed Difficult Women. As advertised, it is a series of tales about women whose acts make them “difficult” in the patriarchal sense. What Gay does, however, is destroy this concept story after story by taking us inside the lives and minds of these women, and showing them doing nothing more than fighting for their safety and happiness. Her style is simple, with recurring vocabulary, but I was once again amazed by her ability to create connotations from the association of simple words. One of my favourite examples:
“Caridad loved her body, the strength and shape of it. She did not much love how other people loved her body. They misunderstood.”
The violence I ran away from in An Untamed State is definitely there (that first story, oh my God that first story), but I discovered that I could take it- perhaps because Gay underlines its inescapability, and portrays other women grappling with it in their everyday lives. Put simply, Difficult Women touched both my heart and my head, and that’s the best thing a book can do.
Oh, and I’ve now added An Untamed State to my reading list.