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Riley Heruska
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Roxanne Gay first garnered attention in 2014 when she published An Untamed State, the intensely addictive story of a woman who is kidnapped and held for ransom. People simply couldn't put her debut down, and it was quickly heralded as one of the best books of the year by various sources, including the Washington Post, NPR, the Boston Globe, Kirkus, and more. Gay went on to publish an essay collection titled Bad Feminist, which expanded the writer's fan base even more with its insights into gender issues and politics. In the shockingly short period of just three years, Gay has established an impressive place for herself in the world of women's literature, and she has been called everything from a brightly shining star to a strong voice that won't be silenced.

This past January, Gay awed her audience once again with her newest collection of short stories, Difficult Women. The book is a heart-wrenching combination of tragedy and passion, as well as an examination of intense moral themes: How do humans fall in love with and relate to each other? How do we move past the events that shatter our world? One after the other, Gay's questions draw the readers into the dark world of struggling women. Once I picked the book up, I was hooked into a world of crime, emotion, and most significantly, women who have endured the unimaginable.

Gay unflinchingly tackles controversial and gruesome subjects, including poverty, rape, miscarriages, and adultery. Her stories are raw, and I was surprised at how personal Gay was able to make each character's tale. Issues of female worth, as well as sexual injustices in the everyday world, are included in a beautifully subtle manner. Despite the heavy content, Difficult Women also encapsulates relatable female characters who could be any American woman. Gay has a true gift for storytelling, as well as character development. Her perfectly-worded phrases are beautiful enough to string on a necklace like pearls. 

It should be said that this book is not for the faint of heart, nor for young readers. Gay candidly addresses sex, prostitution, abuse, and many other topics that might be deemed inappropriate for general audiences. However, if you are willing to work through the rough patches in her stories, you will discover an unforgettable writer with impressive literary skills and tales worth telling. 

Praise for Difficult Women

"[Roxane Gay] writes candidly, vividly, and necessarily . . . You will find it difficult to resist her flawless pacing [and] sharp, clear prose.” — Ariel Gonzalez, The Miami Herald on An Untamed State

"Gay has fun with these ladies. Her narrative games aren't rulesy. She plays with structure and pacing, breaking up some stories with internal chapterlets, writing long (upward of 20 pages) and very short (under two pages). She moves easily from first to third person, sometimes within a single story. She creates worlds that are firmly realist and worlds that are fantastically far-fetched…With Difficult Women, you really have no idea what's going to happen next." —  Gemma Sieff, The New York Times Book Review 

“Gay’s signature dry wit and piercing psychological depth make every story mesmerizingly unusual and simply unforgettable.” — Harper Bazaar

“Gay brings the powerful voice that flows through her work as a novelist and cultural critic to the 21 short stories in her first collection . . . Gay’s ‘difficult women’ are unforgettable.” — BBC.com

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