There are so many reasons why I’m a fan of Roxane Gay and I haven’t even read any of her fiction. Her memoir, Hunger, was so moving, heart breaking, personal and brave that I am in awe of it. I’ve read many essays, opinions and other pieces featured in the New York Times, Medium and so much more – I almost always click a link when I see she’s written something. And she is utterly fantastic on Twitter! But I think so far, Bad Feminist: Essays is my favourite of her works.
I actually had a copy of her novel, An Untamed State, in my hand at the bookstore but remembered I wanted to read Bad Feminist and found a beautiful copy of it. I should have purchased both but selected the latter and was glad I did. I’ll read her novels and look forward to doing so but the collection of essays that is Bad Feminist had me on a roller coaster of emotions and gave me so much to think about. I love that in anything I read and I think it’s what I really like about Gay’s work. What I’ve read so far at least!
It is a fascinating collection covering a wide variety of topics and the collection is broken down into the following themes:
GENDER & SEXUALITY
RACE & ENTERTAINMENT
POLITICS, GENDER & RACE
BACK TO ME
She presents a collection that is funny, serious, critical, thought-provoking, interesting, smart and so much more. It left me with a great desire to meet Gay and I know that when I get asked the question “who would you like to have dinner with, dead or alive”; my answer will be Roxane Gay. [Aside: I’m not sure I’ve ever been asked that question but I always, always have an answer ready – it was Shonda Rhimes before Roxane Gay and she’s still on my list]. She writes about popular culture, politics, sexuality, friendships and more. I couldn’t put the book down even though one of the things I like about reading essay collections or short story collections is the natural breaks that allow me to easily put a good book down and sleep.
I read the collection in order but there are standouts that I know I’ll go back and read in the future. Some of the highlights for me:
To Scratch, Claw, or Grope Clumsily or Frantically – Gay is a competitive Scrabble player and I loved this essay about her competitive nature, the game, how she got into the tournaments and some of the characters she encountered. I think I liked this so much because I have a love/hate relationship with Scrabble myself. I love the game because I love words but I hate when I’m losing, more so with Scrabble than with any other game I play.
Not Here To Make Friends – an essay that explores “unlikeable” characters found in literature and film and the why of “unlikeable” characters. Made me consider all of the “unlikeable” characters I had enjoyed reading about and all the ones I decided I didn’t like so much that I abandoned the book.
And her two essays, Bad Feminist: Take Oneand Bad Feminist: Take Two – I appreciated both of these essays so much because there are so many times when I question feminism, when I’m not sure I’m being a “good” feminist because of my opinion on something or another and when it doesn’t seem like a good thing to be a feminist. Gay had me reflecting on my own experiences, my opinions and the view I had of myself while also learning from her experience. I both appreciate that and recognize how powerful that is.
It was hard to highlight a handful of essays because they were so wide ranging in topic and ultimately, the entire collection is worth a read. Now to decide what work of Roxane Gay’s to read next!
P.S. I really loved the font that was used for the edition I have. I want to change everything I write into that font. Sorry, such a nerd about fonts!