Reading at Fall for the Book, 2014
October 15, 1974|
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
Phillips Exeter Academy|
University of Nebraska
Michigan Technological University
Phillips Exeter Academy|
University of Nebraska
Michigan Technological University
|Genres||Novel, short story, criticism|
Roxane Gay (born October 15, 1974) is an American writer, professor, editor, and commentator. She is the author of The New York Times best-selling essay collection Bad Feminist (2014), as well as the short story collection Ayiti (2011), the novel An Untamed State (2014), the short story collection Difficult Women (2017), and the memoir Hunger (2017).
Gay is an associate professor of English at Purdue University, contributing opinion writer at The New York Times, founder of Tiny Hardcore Press, essays editor for The Rumpus, and co-editor of PANK, a nonprofit literary arts collective.
Early life and education
Gay began her undergraduate studies at Yale University but dropped out in her junior year to pursue a relationship in Arizona. She later completed her undergraduate degree in Nebraska and also earned an MA with an emphasis in Creative Writing from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. In 2010, Gay received a PhD in Rhetoric and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University; her dissertation was titled Subverting the Subject Position: Toward a New Discourse About Students as Writers and Engineering Students as Technical Communicators. Dr. Ann Brady served as her dissertation advisor.
After completing her Ph.D., Gay began her academic teaching career in the fall 2010 at Eastern Illinois University, where she was assistant professor of English. While at EIU, in addition to her teaching duties, she was a contributing editor for Bluestem magazine and she also founded Tiny Hardcore Press. Gay worked at Eastern Illinois University until the end of the 2013–14 academic year, taking a job in August 2014 at Purdue University as associate professor of creative writing.
Gay published a short story collection Ayiti (2011), then two books in 2014: the novel An Untamed State and the essay collection Bad Feminist (2014), leading one Time Magazine reviewer to declare, "Let this be the year of Roxane Gay." The review noted of her inclusive style: "Gay’s writing is simple and direct, but never cold or sterile. She directly confronts complex issues of identity and privilege, but it’s always accessible and insightful."
An Untamed State
In 2014, Gay published her debut novel, An Untamed State, which centers around Mireille Duval Jameson, a Haitian-American woman who is kidnapped for ransom. The novel explores the interconnected themes of race, privilege, sexual violence, family, and the immigrant experience. An Untamed State is often referred to as a fairy tale because of its structure and style, especially in reference to the opening sentence, "Once upon a time, in a far-off land, I was kidnapped by a gang of fearless yet terrified young men with so much impossible hope beating inside their bodies it burned their very skin and strengthened their will right through their bones," and the author's exploration of the American dream and courtship of Mireille's parents.
Gay's collection of essays, Bad Feminist, was released in 2014 to widespread acclaim; it addresses both cultural and political issues, and became a New York Times best-seller. A Time magazine reviewer dubbed Bad Feminist "a manual on how to be human" and called Gay the "gift that keeps on giving." In a 2014 interview with the magazine, Gay explained her role as a feminist and how it has influenced her writing: "In each of these essays, I’m very much trying to show how feminism influences my life for better or worse. It just shows what it’s like to move through the world as a woman. It’s not even about feminism per se, it’s about humanity and empathy."
In The Guardian, critic Kira Cochrane offered a similar assessment, "While online discourse is often characterised by extreme, polarised opinions, her writing is distinct for being subtle and discursive, with an ability to see around corners, to recognise other points of view while carefully advancing her own. In print, on Twitter and in person, Gay has the voice of the friend you call first for advice, calm and sane as well as funny, someone who has seen a lot and takes no prisoners."
A group of feminist scholars and activists analyzed Gay's Bad Feminist for "Short Takes: Provocations on Public Feminism," an initiative of the feminist journal Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society.
World of Wakanda
In July 2016, Gay and poet Yona Harvey were announced as writers for Marvel Comics' World of Wakanda, a spin-off from the company's Black Panther title, making them the first black women to be lead writers for Marvel.
Black Panther: World of Wakanda was hailed for its prominent portrayal of LGBTQ characters. The comic followed the journey of two lovers Aneka and Ayo, who are former members of the Dora Milaje, the Black Panther's female security force. The series follows the pair through multiple events, including the siege of their city by Thanos and the flooding of Wakanda by Namor.
The series' cancellation was confirmed in June 2017 by Gay, coming just two days after the premiere of the trailer for the Black Panther movie. The last issue released in March 2017. Marvel stated no official reason for the cancellation, however, feminist tech site The Mary Sue pointed to a connection with Marvel's knock against "diversity titles" and the Marvel VP David Gabriel's statement that "people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales."
In 2017, Gay published Difficult Women, a collection of fictional short stories that highlight women who have lives that differ from society’s spectrum of a normal life. Each story follows a different character and her journey through either a traumatic experience or what makes her different from societal norms. The women are seen as "difficult" because they push the boundaries of society's portrayal of the perfect woman.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body was released in June 2017. In it, Gay discusses her experience with weight, body image, and building a positive relationship with food, particularly following her experience as a childhood victim of sexual violence. Gay described this book as a testimony of "what it’s like to live in a world that tried to discipline unruly bodies." The memoir received wide acclaim, praised by critics as "remarkable...ferociously honest," "arresting and candid," and "intimate and vulnerable."
Following her national book tour in support of Hunger, Gay said she found press around the book "to be very challenging, because people just don’t know how to talk about fat." In June 2017, Australian website Mamamia published an interview with Gay, which cited numerous details about how they prepared for the visit that Gay later called "cruel and humiliating" on Twitter. In an interview with The New York Times, Gay stated the controversial event was "helpful, in that I think people get to see, in real time, what fat-phobia looks like and just how careless people can be in considering that fat people deserve dignity. So I suppose it’s a useful example of why I wrote the book."
Not That Bad
Gay was the editor of an essay anthology entitled Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture. The collection, published in 2018 by HarperCollins, features essays from Gay and 30 other authors, including actresses Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union.
Gay was the editor of The Butter, an online feminist writing site and sister site to The Toast, from November 2014 to August 2015. The Butter featured writing on a wide variety of subjects, including disability, literature, family, music, among others. The Butter ceased publishing in August 2015 with Gay stating she was "simply stretched too thin."
Gay was the guest judge and guest editor of The Masters Review annual fiction anthology in 2017.
Gay has a forthcoming book, How to Be Heard, originally set to be published in 2018 by TED Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. However, in January 2017 Gay announced she was pulling the book from Simon & Schuster due to her objections to alt-right journalist Milo Yiannopoulos receiving a book deal from another Simon & Schuster imprint.
She also edited the book Girl Crush: Women's Erotic Fantasies. In addition to her regular contributions to Salon and the now defunct HTMLGiant, her writing has appeared 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, Bookforum, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation and The New York Times Book Review.
In April 2018, Gay partnered with Medium to create a month-long pop-up magazine called Unruly Bodies. The magazine explored the relationship people share with their bodies, through an anthology of essays by 25 writers (including Gay herself).
Much of Gay's written work deals with the analysis and deconstruction of feminist and racial issues through the lens of her personal experiences with race, gender identity, and sexuality.
Works and publications
- Gay, Roxane (2011). Ayiti. New York/Oregon: Artistically Declined Press. ISBN 978-1-450-77671-4. OCLC 776999100.
- — (2014). An Untamed State. New York: Black Cat / Grove Atlantic. ISBN 9780802122513. OCLC 903123484.
- — (2017). Difficult Women. New York: Grove Atlantic. ISBN 978-0-802-12539-2. OCLC 957223378.
- Gay, Roxane (2014). Bad Feminist. New York: Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0-062-28272-9. OCLC 877890878.
- — (2017). Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. New York: Harper. ISBN 9780062362599. OCLC 918590664.
- Selected short fiction
- Gay, Roxane (6 July 2016). "Group Fitness". Oxford American (60).
- — (2013). "The Year I Learned Everything". Prairie Schooner. 87 (1): 23–41. JSTOR 24640291.
- Other selected works
- Gay, Roxane (2010). Subverting the Subject Position: Toward a New Discourse About Students as Writers and Engineering Students as Technical Communicators (Thesis/dissertation). Houghton, MI: Michigan Technological University. OCLC 774576963.
- gay, Roxane. Hunger: A Memoir of (my) Body.Location 282 Kindle Ebook First edition. New York, NY: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2017.
- "Roxane Gay". Freedom from Religion Foundation.
- Gay, Roxane. "Once, I Was Pretty". freerangenonfiction.com. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
- "Roxane Gay". Salon.com. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
- Halle, Steve (March 29, 2012). "Roxane Gay to Visit Bloomington-Normal/ISU on April 17". WordPress.com. Archived from the original on December 13, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
- "Roxane Gay: What Does It Mean To Identify As A Feminist?". NPR.org. Retrieved 2018-09-04.
- "About | Roxane Gay". Retrieved September 25, 2015.
- Gay, Roxane (August 21, 2016). "Nate Parker and the Limits of Empathy". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-08-26.
- Higgins, Jim (May 23, 2014). "Talking with 'An Untamed State' author Roxane Gay". The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved July 18, 2014.
- "About". PANK. Retrieved July 18, 2014.
- Gregory, Alice (October 10, 2014). "Daphne Merkin's "The Fame Lunches" and Roxane Gay's "Bad Feminist"". The New York Times. Retrieved June 5, 2015.
- John Freeman (Summer 2014). "Roxane Gay". Bomb. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04.
- McArdle, Molly (February 22, 2017). "The Rise of Roxane Gay". Brooklyn Magazine. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
- Chenery, Susan (January 17, 2015). "Roxane Gay, the Bad Feminist as Role Model". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
- Cochrane, Kira (August 2, 2014). "Roxane Gay: Meet the Bad Feminist". The Guardian. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
- "Roxane Gay". Purdue College of Liberal Arts. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
- "Dissertations, Master's Theses and Master's Reports". Retrieved August 3, 2014.
- "2010–2011 Undergraduate Catalog" (PDF). Eastern Illinois University. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
- "Masthead". English Department, Eastern Illinois University. Archived from the original on April 30, 2014. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
- Feeney, Nolan (May 7, 2014). "Roxane Gay's Riveting Debut Novel An Untamed State". Time. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
- Bass, Holly (May 9, 2014). "'An Untamed State,' by Roxane Gay". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
- Locke, Attica (January 7, 2015). "An Untamed State by Roxane Gay review – 'an unflinching portrayal of sexual and spiritual violence'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
- Charles, Ron (May 27, 2014). "'An Untamed State,' by Roxane Gay". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
- "Bad Feminist | Roxane Gay". www.roxanegay.com. Retrieved March 8, 2016.
- Feeney, Nolan (August 5, 2014). "Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist Is a "Manual on How to Be a Human"". Time. Retrieved March 8, 2016.
- "Short Takes: Provocations on Public Feminism. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay". Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. Spring 2016. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
- Gustines, George Gene (July 22, 2016). "Marvel's World of Wakanda Will Spotlight Women, on the Page and Behind It". The New York Times. Retrieved July 23, 2016.
- Blay, Zeba (July 29, 2016). "Roxane Gay Is The Lead Writer Of A Marvel Comic. Here's Why That's Huge". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
- Schmidt, JK (June 12, 2017). "Marvel Cancels Black Panther: World Of Wakanda". Marvel. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
- Gustines, George Gene (July 22, 2016). "Marvel's World of Wakanda Will Spotlight Women, on the Page and Behind It". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
- "Roxane Gay Confirms World of Wakanda's Disappointing Cancellation". www.themarysue.com. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
- French, Agatha (May 11, 2017). "Roxane Gay and Randa Jarrar talk Twitter, 'Difficult Women' and kink in L.A." Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved June 22, 2017.
- Newman, Sandra (February 10, 2017). "Difficult Women by Roxane Gay review – bold feminist stories". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved June 22, 2017.
- "Roxane Gay's new book 'Difficult Women' proves her power". Los Angeles Times. 2017-01-12. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved June 22, 2017.
- Christian Holub, "Roxane Gay announces Difficult Women, delays Hunger", Entertainment Weekly, June 17, 2016.
- Bronis, Leeor. "I Want Your Job: Roxane Gay, Author Of 'Bad Feminist'". Elite Daily. Retrieved March 8, 2016.
- Carroll, Rebecca (June 8, 2017). "'Hunger,' Roxane Gay's striking memoir of food, trauma and the body, is ferociously honest". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
- Green, Adrienne. "Roxane Gay's 'Hunger' Is a Searing Memoir About Weight and Trauma". The Atlantic. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
- "Roxane Gay's new memoir, Hunger, is intimate, vulnerable, and radical". Vox. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
- "Roxane Gay to Embark on 'Hunger' Book Tour — Exclusive". EW.com. March 31, 2017. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
- Masad, Ilana (April 4, 2017). "Roxane Gay Taking HUNGER Across America". BOOK RIOT. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
- "In Hunger, Roxane Gay Says What No One Else Will About Being Fat in America". Vogue. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
- Fortin, Jacey (June 13, 2017). "Roxane Gay Promotes New Book and Calls Out Podcast for 'Fat-Phobia'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
- Flood, Alison (November 6, 2017). "Roxane Gay to edit anthology of 'dispatches from rape culture'". The Guardian. Retrieved March 12, 2018.
- Gay, Roxane (November 17, 2014). "The Butter: FAQs". The Toast. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
- Gay, Roxane (August 28, 2015). "A Buttery Farewell". The Toast. Archived from the original on January 27, 2018. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
- "589: Tell Me I'm Fat". This American Life. June 17, 2016. Retrieved July 6, 2016.
- Gay, Roxane. "Roxane Gay pulls book from Simon & Schuster over Milo Yiannopoulos deal". Retrieved January 25, 2017.
- "Roxane Gay". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 18, 2014.
- "Roxane Gay – HTMLGIANT". htmlgiant.com.
- "Posts by Roxane Gay". Rumpus Magazine. Retrieved July 18, 2014.
- Bonney, Grace (2016). In the Company of Women. New York, NY: Workman Publishing Co. p. 85. ISBN 9781579655976.
- "Roxane Gay Offers to Write 'Batgirl' Movie After Joss Whedon's Departure".
- Gay, Roxane. "The Body Is Unruly – Unruly Bodies". Medium. Retrieved 2018-04-25.
- Tietzel, Nina (June 4, 2015). "Roxane Gay: Writer and self-proclaimed 'bad feminist' talks truth and fiction". ABC. Retrieved June 5, 2015.
- Gay, Roxane (October 11, 2015). "Twitter". Mobile.twitter.com. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
- Gay, Roxane. "What Fullness Is". Medium. Medium. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
- Waldman, Katy. "It Is Good to Be a "Bad" Feminist". Slate. Retrieved September 16, 2014.
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