For most of us, making Oprah’s Book Club List would be the peak of a career. Life complete. Call it a day. It just doesn’t get any better. But while acclaimed author, essayist, critic, and writing professor Roxane Gay is feeling giddy about the success of her debut novel, “An Untamed State,” she’s not about to lose her momentum. Gay has not slowed down one bit not on Twitter, not in her amazing essays editor for The Rumpus, not as co-editor of the magazine PANK. How she finds time to teach writing students at Eastern Illinois University, write everyday, and maintain her effortless cool is beyond us. Roxane has super powers. We’re not jealous. Not at all.
In all seriousness, we’re thrilled to see Roxane getting the good press and attention she deserves, and it all just reminded us of the reasons why we love her and why HelloGiggles readers should know (and love) her too:
1. She is an important feminist voice
Her collection of essays called “Bad Feminist” will be released through Harper Collins in August, and we can’t wait. Despite the book’s title, Roxane is anything but a bad feminist. She talks about loving the color pink and reading Vogue, and covers all the relevant currents, from GIRLS to Fifty Shades of Grey. Reviewers call her book “sharp, funny, and spot on.” But even before “Bad Feminist,” Roxane spoke out about feminist issues and sparked smart discourse on politics and culture for a multitude of outlets like The Nation, The Guardian, and The Rumpus. Roxane has a few beats, but discussing the portrayal of women in the culture we consume, and analyzing how we become that culture; calling out injustices and revealing her own personal battles, makes her an important voice for women, and for women of color.
2. As an editor and a writer, she understands both sides of the writing process
Here’s a writer who walks a mile in an editor’s shoes everyday. As a writer, it’s easy to be just a smidge of a navel gazer, but Roxane condemns this. At a reading in Austin on her book tour for “An Untamed State,” she said, ”Being an editor has made me much more conscientious about not being an a**hole as a writer. I think only once in my life have I turned down an editorial request. . . It’s definitely just made me move through the world more kindly.”
3. She is shamelessly addicted to pop culture
To be an intelligent, well-rounded individual does not mean you can’t have a little fun too. Roxane proves it by unabashedly loving the crap out of pop culture. At a reading on her recent book tour, she admitted, “I’m here for everything Beyoncé,” and indulged the audience with plenty of talk about the recent Beyonce/Solange/Jay-Z drama. She even believes that pop culture discussions have their place in the classroom, and said that in her courses, “We talk about movies—I don’t pretend that popular culture is some sort of taint on literature. It’s all culture, and it all informs.”
4. “An Untamed State”
Roxane can get dark. Really, really dark. But she doesn’t drag you into grim territory just for the fun of it. She brings you back, not unscathed, but clinging to the raw power of hope. Her debut novel, “An Untamed State” is something else. I read it cover to cover in one sitting— all 367 pages. Because she creates characters so riveting, so compelling that you can’t help but feel your heart beat harder and harder as you follow this story.
Some writers like their dialogue. Others are more enamored with exposition. Roxane is the latter, and in “An Untamed State,” she breaks up the intensity of Mireille’s nightmarish trauma by offsetting each chapter with character building flashbacks. It’s a tough read emotionally, but beautifully crafted and highly recommended for your summer reading.
5. She is a riot
Roxane is a hilarious spitfire, and if you don’t already follow her on Twitter, you should. Sometimes she live tweets her travel snafus and sometimes she unabashedly talks about people she finds sexy. The mind of Roxane is never boring, and as she admittedly “lives on the Internet,” we get to follow along.
Roxane pushes a “to hell with highbrow” ideal. She’s classy and refined, but she’s not afraid to let her raucous, naughty side out to play. (Speaking of naughty, Roxane’s work is featured in an anthology of “Best American Erotica.” Ahem.)
6. She writes little reads for Tiny Hardcore Press that fit in your back pocket
The nonprofit literary arts collective, Tiny Hardcore Press (PANK Magazine is a part) “fosters access to emerging and experimental poetry and prose, publishing the brightest and most promising writers for the most adventurous readers.” Roxane founded this micro-press, and said in an interview with LitStack that it’s, “Tiny enough to be so adorable you can’t help but sigh happily when you think of it,” and, “Hardcore enough to make you want to look away but you can’t so you keep staring and feeling that terrible thrilling tension winding itself through you.”
7. She fervently supports small publishers and up-and-comers
So many forget the underlings when they make it up the ranks themselves. Not so for Roxane. She frequently plugs other writers, and she teaches writing to a younger generation of students. She clearly cares about the future of publishing, and is a staunch supporter of small presses like Vouched Books, who she read for, published with, and gave a lot of love to when they were but foals in 2010.
8. She plays competitive Scrabble
Need I say more?