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Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

BOTTOM LINE: An absolute must-read and a perfect first book for 2017

Genre: Fiction; Short Stories
Publication Date: 3 January 2017
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“Award-winning author and livewire talent Roxane Gay burst onto the scene with the widely acclaimed novel 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 gives voice to a chorus of unforgettable women in a scintillating collection reminiscent of Merritt Tierce, Jamie Quatro, and Miranda July.”

My Thoughts: At some point in time in her life, every woman will be called difficult. As we all know, this is a euphemism for being emotional, opinionated, pushy, bitchy, and sometimes just for being alive. In Roxane Gay’s latest collection of short stories, she highlights the many reasons why we may indeed be difficult. These reasons are every bit as emotional, disturbing, and honest as you would think.

Each story is powerful in its own right and demands careful reflection upon finishing it. Some are so upsetting that you cannot move forward with digesting what you just read. However, the collection is so compelling that you find yourself reading the stories one after the other. There is merit in either approach to the book. Both approaches will ultimately lead you to the same conclusions about women’s place in society.

In each short story Ms. Gay provides an unflinching look at just a few of the issues women deal with on a daily basis. Even more impressively, she creates characters that are more than just caricatures. You know these women. They are your girlfriends, your sisters, mothers, daughters; they are you. This fact, along with her sensitive, almost poetic, approach to very difficult topics, makes this collection a must-read for feminists.

Ms. Gay reminds all readers that if someone insists on calling us difficult, we are so because of the challenges we face in a male-dominated society. Our unique roles as mothers and caregivers brings its own challenges that men will never understand. Ms. Gay does understand and it shows in every word in each of her short stories. Coming off of the craptastic 2016 and the disturbing revelations the presidential election revealed about society, Difficult Women is an essential read for 2017.

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