Roxane Gay on what happens when beloved writers die, pretty celebrities speak, and smart feminists dance.
She calls from her place in Maples, Florida, at 8am our time. Roxane Gay’s voice is raspy but fierce. Her laugh can only really be described as a warm cackle. Her wisdom is infectious.
If you don’t know Roxane, you should. She’s one of the most captivating writers in the world right now.
Despite working as a journalist since the ’90s, Roxane Gay was so prominent in 2014, it felt like overnight success. Publishing two books in one year — a compilation of essays called Bad Feminist and a novel called Untamed State — gave the impression that Gay was unstoppable, almost omnipresent. She became so fabulously prominent, Time Magazine called 2014 ‘The Year of Roxane Gay’.
Roxane, how does it feel to have a whole year dedicated to you?
Strange! Strange and unexpected and wonderful and weird. So weird.
Sequels are notoriously difficult to pull off. What’re you going to do in 2015?
Haha! Breathing. I’m taking a breath and getting back into writing. It’s a solitary activity, so this might be a quieter, lonelier year for me. Generally, I get by deluding myself that nobody is going to read my words, but I guess that’s changed now. People read what I have to say.
Yes, millions of people. Does that make you feel exposed? Especially when you write about traumatic things?
I do feel exposed. There’s a certain vulnerability to knowing what an audience you have. Being a writer is strange; the actual writing part is so private, but then people read your work, it’s so shockingly public.
But I overcome that because I think it’s so important to talk about trauma. The more we talk about it, the less power we let it have. Writing about my own experiences is scary, particularly because once a part of you is on the internet, you can’t take it back. I believe in full disclosure, but I also believe in people’s right to privacy, so that’s a dilemma I’ve always got within myself.