Roxane Gay’s essay ‘Bad Feminist’ was described by the Guardian as ‘the most persuasive feminist recruitment drive in recent memory’: she argues for embracing the values of feminism, while admitting her own contradictions and imperfections as a feminist.
Her book of the same name – a vibrant, provocative, thoughtful collection of essays that blend pop culture, memoir, and politics – is similarly complex and nuanced. Gay, a creative writing professor, brilliantly blends high and low culture in her work: her essay on The Hunger Games is also a reflection on female strength and surviving trauma, and she eviscerates mainstream American culture’s lingering racism through critiques of films like The Help and Django Unchained. She draws on the personal throughout, but always with a purpose. ‘I’ll show you my bloody guts, but there’s going to be, hopefully, a larger purpose to the writing,’ she says.
The Haitian-American writer has also been a driving force in agitating to raise the profile of writers of colour, conducting a count of the books reviewed by leading publications. And her debut novel, An Untamed State, about a brutal kidnapping in Haiti and its gruelling aftermath, has been hailed as ‘riveting … smart, searing’ by the Washington Post.
Meet one of America’s most engaging new literary voices in conversation with Maxine Beneba Clarke. Their wide-ranging conversation covers inclusive approaches to feminism and activism, as well as the role of race, history and power in informing An Untamed State.