Difficult Women

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

Rating: 4.5 stars

This book was a gift from my best friend who knows me well and couldn’t believe I hadn’t read anything by Roxane Gay before.  Honestly, I can’t believe it either.  Bad Feminist has been on my list for a while but I never got around to it. 

These stories were beautifully written and give you a glimpse into the lives of “difficult women,” which is really just a way to describe women who had to deal with horrible circumstances and have the audacity to continue living their lives.  Some of these stories emotionally wrecked me, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters for days.

Three of my favorite stories:

“I Will Follow You”

  • This was one of the stories that emotionally devastated me.  It’s a simply written and horrifying story about two sisters who were abducted as children and endured unspeakable acts at the hands of their captor.  As one sister describes it, “we were young once and then we weren’t.”  Their bond and love for each other is incredible as each manages to help the other keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep living, although they will never completely move past those experiences.

“North Country”

  • This story is about a structural engineer who moves to the “edge of the world” (northern Michigan) for a postdoc position.  Gay manages to convey the subtle and overt racism and sexism she feels both in her workplace and around town as just another part of her day.  It’s described simply as just another thing she has to deal with, which is sadly true.  Those are just another part of her life.

“Difficult Women”

  • This is a series of explanations for how certain types of women act, like “Why a Crazy Woman is Misunderstood” (calling after a date to retrieve the briefcase you left at the guy’s home is a sign you’re crazy and can’t leave him alone) or “What a Crazy Women Thinks About While Walking Down the Street” (pretend you don’t hear the cat calls and try not to leave the house in a short skirt or tank top). 
  • One of my favorite lines from this book is in the section on dead girls:

“Death makes them more interesting.  Death makes them more beautiful… finally, it might be said, they are at peace.”


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