“When you can’t find someone to follow, you have to find a way to lead by example.” – Roxane Gay. I first met Roxane Gay last year at the ‘Roxane Gay: With One N’ lecture series, hosted by the University of Exeter. I’d been a fan of hers previously and assumed I’d never get the privilege of meeting her in-person, never mind signing my books. Yes, I fan-boy hard. Despite embarrassing myself when it came to asking her questions, the talk was one of the most entertaining and insightful experiences for an aspiring writer and an individual who wants to do better.
Too often, profound insight is locked behind the gates of academia
Widely regarded as a leading feminist voice of our time, you’d be forgiven for expecting a barrage of academic terminology and strings of prose that fall on naive ears, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Roxane delivers, both in person and in prose, a piercing dissection of modern feminism while wielding the experience and understanding to talk to anyone, regardless of whether you’re a third-year Literature student or a first year CompSci fresher. Her interplay between intellectualism and colloquialism is phenomenal and ensures you’ll never leave a conversation or passage confused. This is an underrated and often overlooked aspect of critical discussion concerning culture. Too often, profound insight is locked behind the gates of academia, leaving students tilling essays for a fragment of information they can apply to the world around them. Roxane doesn’t just unlock this gate, she destroys the gate, and in doing so offers an insightful critique of our recognisable world.
Born to Haitian immigrant parents in Omaha, Nebraska and spending her youth in the turbulent waters of alienation from other white Americans, Gay brings with her a range of familiar to extremely nuanced experiences. In Gay’s most popular essay collection, Bad Feminist (2014), she explores topics ranging from gender and sexuality to politics and race, all through the lens of your best friend who is going to give you the uncomfortable truth; in Roxane’s words: “these conversations are more fun when preceded by an emphatic “GIRL.” In an essay titled, I Was Once Miss America, Gay discusses Girlhood and the Sweet Valley High franchise at length, exploring the characters with sentiment, wit and critical observation, concluding: “a girl is a girl whether she lives in West Omaha or Sweet Valley. Books are often far more than books.”
Roxane Gay is a multi-faceted author whose arsenal is stocked with stories that thrill
In another of Gay’s collection, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (2017), she bleeds onto the page, relating her experiences with rape, weight and body image. It is as hard to read as it must’ve been to write: an unflinching account with stark implications for all.
Roxane Gay is a multi-faceted author whose arsenal is stocked with stories that thrill, essays that evoke, and truths that make one writhe, she is the author of our time and her hilarious and tragic experiences, navigating the world as a black, queer woman are invaluable to all that claim, just for a moment, that they could begin to understand.