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Roxane Gay is an American author, professor, and women's rights activist, focusing primarily on the field of women and gender studies. She is best known for her works of writing, which include the short story collection Ayiti (2011), New York Times bestseller essay collection Bad Feminist (2014), An Untamed State (2014), short story collection Difficult Women (2017), and memoir Hunger (2017). [1]

In addition to her own individual writings, Gay is a contributing Op-Ed writer for The New York Times, covering intersectionality with a focus on the cross between culture and identity. Her other major projects also include editing essays for the online literary magazine The Rumpus, co-editor of PANK, and founding publishing company Tiny Hardcore Press. [1]

Her writings and work deal with topics of intersectionality, race, gender, class, privilege, sexuality, weight, and self-image on both a personal and societal level. [2] Her work is influenced by her personal experiences of being a woman, person of color, openly bisexual, and a Haitian American. [3]


Biography[]

Gay was born October 15th, 1974 in Omaha, Nebraska to a Haitian American family. At age 12, she was sexually assaulted, which would greatly influence her later works. She then began writing essays as a teenager. Gay attended Philips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. [3]

After graduating high school, Gay attended Yale University but dropped out her junior year at 19 years old to pursue a relationship with a 44-year-old man in Arizona. [3] She later returned to school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to finish her undergraduate degree and then obtained an MA with a concentration in Creative Writing from there. Gay obtained a Ph.D. from Michigan Technological University in 2010 in Rhetoric and Technical Communication. [4]

In Fall 2010, after obtaining her Ph.D., Gay started her academic teaching career as an assistant professor of English at Eastern Illinois University. During this time, she founded her publishing company, Tiny Hardcore Press. Gay left Eastern Illinois University after the 2013-2014 academic year and began teaching as an associate professor of Creative Writing at Purdue University in August 2014. [4]

Gay continues to write as well as make appearances around the country, including her Difficult Women tour in 2017.[1]

Major Writings & Publications[]

Ayiti (2011)[]

A collection of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that represents the experience of Haitian diaspora. It explores Haitian life in both Haiti and the United States. The book aims to break down the common misconceptions about Haitian life and culture, especially the stereotype of poverty. Through individual stories that are woven together in the book, Gay paints an honest, realistic picture of Haitian life and explores the experience beyond the surface level analysis that most are used to. [5]

An Untamed State (2014)[]

A novel about a woman who, while vacationing in Haiti with her family, is kidnapped and then gang-raped and tortured by her captors for 13 days after her wealthy father refuses to pay the demanded ransom. The first part of the story focuses on her kidnapping and life prior to that, while the second part of the story focuses on trauma and healing after the incident. The contrast of privilege in an area of crushing poverty helps to tell a story about class and privileges afforded to those who are lucky. In addition, it is a story about how a sexual assault survivor learns to process her trauma and heal. [5]

Bad Feminist (2014)[]

A collection of essays dealing with how being a feminist shapes the way Gay moves through and interprets the world. It explores the idea of being a feminist while simultaneously loving things that would traditionally be seen as going against feminist ideals. The essays deal with a wide range of topics including Gay's personal experiences as well as politics and pop culture. The book is split into five categories: Me; Gender & Sexuality; Race & Entertainment; Politics, Gender & Race; and Back to Me. Throughout the book, Gay focuses on what it means to be a feminist, how she interacts with the world as a feminist, as well as what it means to not only be a woman but also a woman of color. [5][6]

World of Wakanda (2014)[]

A comic book spinoff of the Marvel Black Panther comic book series. As a collaboration between Gay and poet Yona Harvey, it is the first Marvel publication to be written by black women. The comic tells the story of two African women, Ayo and Aneka, who were formerly apart of the Black Panther's female security force, Dora Milaje. In addition, the two women are also lovers who are in a relationship. In the comic, the focus is on the stories and identities of these two black women, rather than casting them aside as a backstory or token characters. This comic focuses on women of color being the center of a story, as well as examining sexuality, with the main characters being lesbians. [5]

Difficult Women (2017)[]

A collection of short fictional stories about women whose lives are considered to be outside what society considers to be a normal life. The stories contrast each other, with some living in privilege and others poverty. Though they all live different lives, they are united through the fact they all face struggles. Each story is about a different character and their journey during a traumatic experience and why they differ from societal norms. These women in the stories break the boundaries of what society portrays as a "perfect" woman, which is what makes them "difficult women." [5][7]

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (2017)[]

A personal memoir dealing with Gay's experiences with body image, weight, and her relationship with food. She delves into her past and what events led her to have an unhealthy relationship with food. She shares her journey to having a healthy relationship with food and her body, and how she learned the difference between self-comfort and self-care. Gay uses her own personal experiences to connect to our shared worries concerning food, health, and our appearance. She considers what taking care of yourself means, and how to have a control over food while still enjoying it, as well as how to love and appreciate your body. [5][8]

Contributions and Influences in Women & Gender Studies[]

Gay has contributed to and influenced the women & gender studies field in many ways, primarily through her writings, teachings, and appearances. Through her lens of intersectionality, she has brought how factors such as race, class, sexuality, and weight intersect with the experience of womanhood. Her books and writings explore how intersectionality affects a woman's experience in the world, on a personal and societal level. [1] Her raw honesty, which has not often been previously explored by those in the field, opened new doors into personal experiences that many are hesitant to talk about, including her experiences with sexual assault, body image, and privilege.[9] With intersectionality as a fairly new term, she explores what it means to claim multiple intersections as a part of your identity. Gay's writing has explored ideas that have often been seen as radical, such as two black, lesbian women being the main focus of a story. Her tours and appearances around the country and world have helped her ideas to become widespread and have pushed feminist ideas to become more mainstream. [3]

Honors and Acknowledgements[]

Gay has been honored and acknowledged for her work by several sources. Her honors and acknowledgements include:

  • Gay's writing has been featured in: Best American Mystery Stories 2014Best American Short Stories 2012Best Sex Writing 2012A Public SpaceMcSweeney’sTin HouseOxford AmericanAmerican Short FictionWest BranchVirginia Quarterly ReviewNOONBookforumTimeThe Los Angeles TimesThe Nation and The New York Times Book Review. [4]
  • Gay won the PEN Freedom to Write award in 2015. [10]
  • Gay was included in the book In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs in 2016.[4]

Major Appearances[]

Gay has made many minor and major appearances, both nationally and internationally, including tours, speeches, workshops, festivals, and readings at universities. [11] Her major appearances include:

2011 [11][]

  • FEBRUARY 2–5 • AWP Conference Bookfair
  • JUNE 22 • Reading, Northern Michigan University
  • JUNE 23 • Panel on Michigan writing

2012 [11][]

  • FEBRUARY 29 – MARCH 3 • AWP Conference Bookfair
  • MARCH 14 • Reading, John Carroll University
  • APRIL 27 • Innovative Women in Publishing, University of Colorado Boulder
  • MAY 21 • Reading, Center for Fiction, NYC
  • SEPTEMBER 27 • Electronic Corpse, as part of Chicago’s Social Media Week
  • OCTOBER 3–5 • Michigan State University
  • DECEMBER 1 • Arts Iliana Wordfest, Terre Haute, IN

2013 [11][]

  • FEBRUARY 14–16 • University of Tampa
  • MARCH 6 • Brown University
  • MARCH 6–10 • AWP Conference Book Fair
  • MARCH 11–16 • Coal Royalty Chair Writers Series, University of Alabama
  • MAY 11 • Reading, Folio Magazine Launch, Washington D.C.
  • JULY • Midwest Writers Workshop
  • SEPTEMBER 20 • Reading, Kansas State University
  • OCTOBER 1 • Grand Valley State University
  • OCTOBER 23–26 • Ohio University
  • NOVEMBER 7–10 • Sanibel Island Writer’s Conference
  • NOVEMBER 21 •University of Indianapolis

2014 [11][]

  • JANUARY 3 – 12 • Lake Tahoe, NV, Sierra Nevada MFA Program
  • FEBRUARY 26 – MARCH 1 • AWP, Seattle, WA
  • MARCH 21–24 • Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival
  • MARCH 27–28 • University of Southern California, Los Angeles
  • APRIL 26 • Columbus State Writer’s Conference
  • JUNE 13–14 • Antioch University, Los Angeles
  • SEPTEMBER 13 • Fall for the Book, George Mason University
  • SEPTEMBER 21 • NYC, Brooklyn Book Festival
  • SEPTEMBER 23 • NYC, Harper Perennial 50th Anniversary
  • OCTOBER 6 • University of Texas, Austin
  • DECEMBER 10 • Women Employed

2015 [11][]

  • JANUARY 8 • University of Tampa
  • FEBRUARY 12 • College of William & Mary
  • MARCH 18 • Nassau Community College
  • MARCH 26–27 • University of North Dakota Writers Conference
  • MAY 11–14 • Northwestern’s Festival of Writing
  • MAY 28 • TED Women
  • MAY 29 • Girls Write Now
  • JULY 27 – AUGUST 10 • Black Forest Writing Seminars
  • SEPTEMBER 21 • UCLA
  • OCTOBER 4 • The New Yorker Festival
  • OCTOBER 23 • Vancouver Writers Festival
  • NOVEMBER 6 • Chicago Humanities Festival

2016 [11][]

  • JANUARY 19 • Butler University
  • FEBRUARY 1–2 • University of North Carolina Wilmington
  • MARCH 25 • Phillips Exeter Academy
  • MARCH 30 • Stanford University
  • MARCH 30 – APRIL 2 • AWP,  Los Angeles
  • APRIL 27–30 • York College
  • MAY 1 • PEN Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture, NYC
  • AUGUST 9 • Brooklyn Historical Society
  • SEPTEMBER 20 • MIT Media Lab
  • OCTOBER 6 • Iowa City, IA, Paul W. Engle Prize Ceremony
  • OCTOBER 17 • In the Company of Women event, Los Angeles
  • OCTOBER 20 • Purdue University

2017 (Up to Present) [11][]

  • JANUARY 10 • Pen/Faulkner Reading, Washington D.C.
  • JANUARY 25 • Indiana University
  • FEBRUARY 14 • Brown University
  • MARCH 3–4 • Long Beach Festival of Writers / Literary Women
  • MARCH 10 • Gender Studies Symposium / Lewis & Clark College
  • MARCH 21 • Trinity University
  • MARCH 23 • ACRL National Conference, Baltimore
  • APRIL 22–23 • Los Angeles Festival of Books
  • JUNE 19 • Chicago Humanities Festival, Chicago, IL
  • SEPTEMBER 2 • National Book Festival
  • SEPTEMBER 9 • Second Flight Books

Sources[]

  1. McArdle, M. (2017, February 22). The Rise of Roxane Gay. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from http://www.bkmag.com/2017/02/22/rise-roxane-gay/
  2. Cochrane, K. (2014, August 02). Roxane Gay: meet the bad feminist. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/02/roxane-gay-bad-feminist-sisterhood-fake-orgasm
  3. Quinn, A. (2014, July 05). Roxane Gay: 'Bad Feminist,' Real Person. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from http://www.npr.org/2014/07/03/328228837/roxane-gay-bad-feminist-real-person
  4. Arts, C. O. (n.d.). Roxane Gay // Purdue College of Liberal Arts. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from https://www.cla.purdue.edu/facultystaff/profiles/new/newfaculty-14/Gay._Roxane.html
  5. Gay, R. (n.d.). Writing. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from http://www.roxanegay.com/writing/
  6. Feeney, N. (2014, August 05). Roxane Gay: 'Bad Feminist' Interview. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from http://time.com/3082038/roxane-gay-interview-bad-feminist/
  7. Newman, S. (2017, February 10). Difficult Women by Roxane Gay review – bold feminist stories. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/feb/10/difficult-women-by-roxane-gay-review
  8. Meltzer, M. (2017, August 29). Roxane Gay's New Memoir About Her Weight May Be Her Most Feminist-and Revealing-Act Yet. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from http://www.elle.com/culture/a45920/roxane-gay-profile-hunger-memoir/
  9. Julious, B. (2017, June 19). Roxane Gay: New Memoir 'Hunger' on Navigating and Responding to Trauma. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/roxane-gay-hunger-author-talks-new-memoir-w488576
  10. Flood, A. (2015, November 05). Roxane Gay wins PEN Freedom to Write award. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/nov/05/roxane-gay-wins-pen-freedom-to-write-award
  11. Gay, R. (n.d.). Appearances. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from http://www.roxanegay.com/appearances/
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