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Bad Feminist: Essays Paperback – August 5, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, August 2014: "These essays are political and they are personal," Roxanne Gay announces in the introduction of Bad Feminist. "They are, like feminism, flawed, but they come from a genuine place." This place, as displayed throughout the course of her excellent essay collection, is also one of daring intelligence, imagination, and empathy. Gay leads by example. To combat the demeaning stereotype that feminists are humorless, Gay imbues her essays with levity. One of the best pieces comes early in the book when Gay competes in a Scrabble tournament and her success as a beginner angers her male opponents. It's smart and laugh-out-loud funny essay, and in a humbling turn, Gay herself finds a similar unwarranted frustration toward competitors when she begins losing. Bad Feminist represents Gay's body of personal essays and critical work over the past several years, and if the book has a slight misstep, it's that it sometimes feels like these are articles that have been published elsewhere. (For example, Gay's takedown of The Help is extraordinary, but the same arguments return repeatedly in pieces about other films.) Still, this is such a small complaint in a rare collection where each and every piece is vital and the book as a whole feels important. --Kevin Nguyen

Review

“Roxane Gay is the brilliant girl-next-door: your best friend and your sharpest critic. . . . She is by turns provocative, chilling, hilarious; she is also required reading.” (People)

“Roxane Gay applies her discerning eye to everything from Paula Deen to The Bachelor.” (Marie Claire)

“Feisty, whip-smart essays on gender, sexuality, and race.” (Entertainment Weekly)

“One of our sharpest new culture critics plants her flag in topics ranging from trigger warnings to Orange is the New Black in this timely collection of essays.” (O, the Oprah Magazine, 10 Titles to Pick Up Now)

“A trenchant collection. . . . Whatever her topic, Gay’s provocative essays stand out for their bravery, wit, and emotional honesty.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Toss Roxane Gay’s collection of witty, thoughtful essays, Bad Feminist into your tote bag. With musings on everything from Sweet Valley High to the color pink, Gay explores the idea of being a feminist, even when you’re full of contradictions.” (Self, "Smart beach-read alert")

“A strikingly fresh cultural critic.” (Ron Charles, Washington Post)

“Gay’s essays are consistently smart and provocative. . . . Her essay collection will give you dinner-party conversation through September.” (Jennifer Weiner's 10 best beach reads, USA Today)

“An assortment of comical, yet astute essays that touch on Gay’s personal evolution as a woman, popular culture throughout the recent past, and the state of feminism today.” (Harper's Bazaar)

“Roxane Gay may call herself a bad feminist but she is a badass writer. . . . Reading Bad Feminist is like having a fascinating (one-way) conversation with an extremely smart, well-read, funny and thoughtful party guest. Here’s hoping we have another encounter soon.” (Associated Press)

“Roxane Gay is the gift that keeps on giving. . . . An entertaining and thought-provoking essay collection.” (Time)

Bad Feminist collects the very good essays of ‘It girl’ culture critic Roxane Gay.” (Vanity Fair, Hot Type)

“Fascinating. . . . An important and pioneering contemporary writer . . . Readers will immediately understand the appeal of Gay’s intimate and down-to-earth voice. . . . An important contribution to the complicated terrain of gender politics.” (Boston Globe)

“Alternately friendly and provocative, wry and serious, her takes on everything from Girls to Fifty Shades of Grey help to recontextualize what feminism is--and what it can be.” (Time Out New York)

“Roxane Gay is so great at weaving the intimate and personal with what is most bewildering and upsetting at this moment in culture. She is always looking, always thinking, always passionate, always careful, always right there.” (Sheila Heti, author of How Should a Person Be?)

“With prodigious bravery and eviscerating humor, Roxane Gay takes on culture and politics in Bad Feminist--and gets it right, time and time again. We should all be lucky enough to be such a bad feminist.” (Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Treasure and Bad Mother)

“Smart readers cannot afford to miss these essays, which range from socially significant art (Girls, Django in Chains) and feminist issues (abortion) to politics (Chris Brown) and why Gay likes pink.” (Library Journal)

“Pre-order it, put it on the library hold list, whatever. Just get ready to read it and quote it and share it and be challenged by it.” (Book Riot)

“There are writers who can show you the excellence of their brains and writers who show you the depths of their souls: I don’t know any writer who does both at the same time as brilliantly as Roxane Gay.” (Elizabeth McCracken, author of Thunderstruck & Other Stories)

“Trailblazing.” (Salon)

“Praise Roxane Gay for her big-hearted self-examining intelligence, for her inclusive and forgiving stance, for her courage and determination . . . for saying out loud the things we were thinking, for guiding us back to ourselves and returning to us what was ours all along.” (Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted)

“She had me at Sweet Valley High. Gay playfully crosses the borders between pop culture consumer and critic, between serious academic and lighthearted sister-girl, between despair and optimism, between good and bad. . . . How can you help but love her?” (Melissa Harris-Perry, Wake Forest Professor and MSNBC host)

“As Bad Feminist proves, Gay is a necessary and brave voice when it comes to figuring out all the crazy mixed messages in our mixed-up world.” ("20 New Nonfiction Books That Will Make You Smarter," Flavorwire)

“Gay writes with probing intelligence about pop-culture topics from the morality of Tyler Perry to how much the Sweet Valley High books mattered to her.” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Bad Feminist places pop culture under her sharp, often hilarious, always insightful microscope.” (GQ.com)

“A collection of sharp, Sontag-ianly searing pieces on everything from Orange Is the New Black to likability in fiction to abortion legislation. . . . Her pieces manage to be at once conversational and full of pithy aphorisms.” (The L Magazine)

“Gay is poised to hit the big time.” (Nylon Magazine)

“As a feminist who has been around a while I have a message for these girls: it’s okay — you can skip the rigors of Betty Friedan and Andrea Dworkin and go straight to Roxane Gay, where feminism is not just friendly, but more relevant than ever.” (Erika Schickel, Los Angeles Review of Books)

“What’s so special about this collection is its accessibility - Gay is nothing short of a critical genius, yet every essay is approachable and open while still being thorough. Her writing is rare, and at that, not to be missed.” (Bustle)

“I’m pretty sure Gay is incapable of writing anything boring. . . . Even better: It’s an essay collection, so you can parse it out, maybe save a couple for days when the Internet is particularly infuriating.” (Jezebel)

“With trenchant thoughts on Sweet Valley High, The Help, abortion, and Chris Brown, Gay isn’t really a bad feminist, just an uncommonly entertaining one.” (Vulture, "8 Books You Need to Read This August")

“A meaty volume of personal essays and criticism from one of the great storytellers and smartest cultural observers out there. . . . Gay is as critical and as she is admiring. That balance is what actually makes these essays so enjoyable and honest.” (Feministing.com)

“One of the liveliest, most joy-inducing books of the year. . . . Bad Feminist is a tour de force and Roxane Gay is a writer of considerable power, intelligence and moral acuity.” (Huffington Post)

Bad Feminist is a broad, compelling book. . . . It’s a book that feels like it needed to be out in the world . . . a book that feels vital, alive, and engaged with the world, and we need more writers as passionate as Roxane Gay.” (Flavorwire)

“Powerful, and its winsomeness is due entirely to Gay’s fearless, inclusive and accessible prose.” (Shelf Awareness)

“Read Bad Feminist to feel good about reading Vogue.” (New York Magazine, "Approval Matrix: Highbrow and Brilliant")

“Gay’s writing is thoughtful and funny, compassionate and bold, and she’s just as likely to discuss Sweet Valley High as Django Unchained or Judith Butler.” (Refinery29)

“Arresting and sensitive. . . . An author who filters every observation through her deep sense of the world as fractured, beautiful, and complex.” (Slate)

“Gay’s essays expertly weld her personal experiences with broader gender trends occurring politically and in popular culture.” (Huffington Post)

“What makes Bad Feminist such a good read isn’t only Gay’s ability to deftly weave razor-sharp pop cultural analysis and criticism with a voice that is both intimate and relatable. It’s that she’s incapable of blindly accepting any kind of orthodoxy.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Blunt and funny. . . . [Gay acknowledges] ‘I am a mass of contradictions.’ For Gay, though, these contradictions are less a condition to be remedied than a source of greater strength.” (Washington Post)

“A prolific and exceptionally insightful writer. . . . Bad Feminist doesn’t show us how Gay should be, but something much better: how Roxane Gay actually is. . . . Gay unquestionably succeeds at leading us in her way.” (Globe and Mail (Toronto))

“I know there are still four and a half months left, but I’m calling it now: 2014 is the year of Roxane Gay. I just devoured her book, Bad Feminist . . . Amazing.” (Rookie)

“Incisive, self-aware, risky, and often funny, the author’s writing is reminiscent of Nora Ephron’s 1975 collection of feminist essays, Crazy Salad. . . . Gay possesses a distinct perspective and singular voice.” (Library Journal)

“A thoughtful and often hilarious new collection of essays.” (Chicago Tribune)

“”[Gay’s] energetic and thought-provoking first essay collection will become as widely read as other generation-defining works, like Nora Ephron’s Crazy Salad and Joan Morgan’s When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost.” (Essence)

“Roxane Gay delivers sermons that read like easy conversations. Bad Feminist is an important collection of prose—prose that matters to those still trying to find their voice.” (Ebony)

“Honest and warm. She takes a close, scathing look at modern music and film. . . . I believe her essay collection will open a lot of eyes and inspire women of all ages to stand and speak up.” (SheKnows.com)

“It’s no surprise that Roxane Gay - author, essayist and sharp observer of everything in pop culture we’re supposed to be too cool to like - has written such a winning book. . . . Perfectly imperfect, Gay is an unforgettable voice, coming at just the right time.” (NPR, Best Books of 2014)

“As a culture critic, Gay has X-ray eyes. Her writing is smart and trenchant . . . She’s disarming and one of us, only smarter. She has a tumblr and she writes about Internet dating. We love her, you know?” (Philadelphia Inquirer)

“Above all, Gay disabuses the stereotype of a humorless feminist, writing in a voice that’s fresh, funny and always accessible.” (Sacramento News Review)

“[A] touching and crucial essay collection. . . . If you’re interested in critical thinking about culture, this book is a must.” (Newsweek)

“Roxane Gay offers an unique (and often biting) perspective on pop culture.” (Miami Herald)

“Gay offers a complex and multifarious feminism to answer the movement’s ongoing PR issues, its flaws and its failures. . . . Bad Feminist surveys culture and politics from the perspective of one of the most astute critics writing today.” (Boston Review)

“Rip-roaringly funny and insightful essays.” (PureWow.com)

“Roxane Gay and her new book Bad Feminist are here to save us all. . . . It’s a swift read with some serious substance. . . . GET TO KNOW HER ALREADY.” (xoJane.com)

“Roxane Gay’s ability to write so clearly about complex issues is truly impressive. Her essays about feminism, race, and class are hilarious, moving, and yes, educational, but never in a way that feels tired or boring.” (Cosmopolitan, "28 Life-Changing Books Every Woman Should Read")

“The book is powerful, and its winsomeness is due entirely to Gay’s fearless, inclusive and accessible prose.” (Shelf Awareness, Best Books of the Year)

“Gay’s writing is as accessible as it is sharp. . . . In the volume of essays, Gay mixes the personal, the political and the pop cultural with unashamed acknowledgement that the three are interrelated and often inseparable.” (Indianapolis Business Journal)

“[Gay is] hilarious. But she also confronts more difficult issues of race, sexual assault, body image, and the immigrant experience. She makes herself vulnerable and it’s refreshing.” (Tanvi Misra, Atlantic, "The Best Book I Read This Year")

Bad Feminist is often LOL funny but continuously ruthless.” (San Antonio Express-News)

“Gay’s insightful exploration of this topic makes readers worry less about their occasional shortcomings and more comfortable with being human.” (BookPage)

“Entertaining and enlightening. . . . Bad Feminist is an outtake of her wisdom, and we would all do well to take heed.” (Bitch Magazine)

“There has never been a book quite like Bad Feminist—a sometimes funny, sometimes serious pop-culture-literary-nonfiction-social-commentary hybrid written by a black woman in America.” (The Root)

“Gay, who has become one of our most provocative essayists, leaves nothing off the table in her debut collection . . . Taken in whole, Bad Feminist is a brave affirmation of selfhood: I am a woman, this is my story, and there is power in its telling.” (Gawker, "The Best Books to Give This Holiday Season: A Bookseller's Guide")

“Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist hardly needs more praise, but no other book speaks more eloquently, or more directly, about today’s most crucial issues. . . . Gay’s essays are intimate and accessible, but broad in scope and deep in insight.” (Celeste Ng, "Writers’ favorite books of 2014," San Francisco Gate)

“If you’re in the mood to read wonderful, thought-provoking essays that feel like they’re written by your best friend, check out Bad Feminist. . . . Gay puts you at ease as she shakes the foundations of what you believe.” (Buzzfeed, Sami Main, "28 Best Books by Women in 2014")
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (August 5, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062282719
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062282712
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (177 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Roxane Gay's writing has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, West Branch, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, Salon, The Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy culture blog, and many others. She is the co-editor of PANK and essays editor for The Rumpus. She teaches writing at Eastern Illinois University. Her novel, She is the author of three books--Ayiti, An Untamed State, and Bad Feminist. She very much wants a tiny baby elephant.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 8, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Amazon made me read this book. It kept showing up in suggestions, and it is an editor's pick. Then Huffington Post chose it as the book they are talking about this week. I was in a grumpy mood about it since the blurb didn't invite my interest. Collections of essays so often are an excuse to show the author as witty and relevant. So the first essay of this book is self deprecating and explained the title. Gay is a bad feminist; she often does not aspire to the politically correct stance and can, at time, act as a girly girl. (gasp) Still I was not in love. But the book was creeping on me.

I love this book. Interestingly the final sell was the chapter on likability in literature and in life. In taking issue with literary criticism that pans a book for unlikable characters, Gay put into words an idea that had been brewing in my own mind. She is a fan of the flawed character. She cares about the person who risks not meeting the standards of a the good girl, and she champions the authors who craft these women. The writing is unpretentious but literary and smart. In adding an essay about her own experiences of being a professional who risks her popularity to be herself, Gay rounded a well spoken discussion with humanity. Gay is dignified in her defiance, and like all my favorite writers, she struggles to be objective on her own short comings. I mean, the woman loves Scrabble.

I am also a fan of Gay's approach to how society views women in general. She uses literature with a well balanced hand. I especially appreciate her mix of classic and contemporary fiction in her critiques. Some of the books are not high literature, and I appreciate this.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Katy on December 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I am a bad feminist; I just didn't have the right term for it before.
From the introduction essay Feminism (n.): Plural
“I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I am just trying—trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world..."
And from the final essay, Bad Feminist: Take Two
"Maybe I'm a bad feminist, but I am deeply committed to the issues important to the feminist movement."

I enjoyed this essay collection immensely. To be fair, I was relatively certain of that before I even opened the book. The chances that I wouldn't love it were slim to fat. Girl is pretty much preaching to the choir, is what I'm getting at. I genuinely laughed out loud. I genuinely cried. A lot of the time, I emphatically nodded my head in agreement. Once, I broke out an impromptu "HELL yes" to the confusion of the others in the room. I don't know whether to love or hate her for being the first person ever to actually make me seriously contemplate reading the Fifty Shades Trilogy. (It got put into my Amazon cart, then taken out, because I can't justify spending money on it, but like also, I don't want to go check it out from the sweet ladies at the library. I can't let them think I read anything that poorly written!) Even, maybe especially, when Roxane Gay is writing about entertainment and pop culture--movies, television, novels (including Sweet Valley High, the mythical magical place of my preteen years!)--she writes passionately, fiercely. And even when she's writing about entertainment and pop culture, she's not just writing about entertainment and pop culture.
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful By E. Smiley on November 9, 2014
Format: Paperback
I chose to read this book after hearing a radio interview with the author, in which she was absolutely amazing. So my expectations were high. Too high, because while I agree with almost everything Gay says, I wasn't as impressed as anticipated.

This book contains essays on a wide range of topics; only a few are about being a feminist, though plenty of others discuss subjects of interest to feminists, such as the representation of women in the media (books, movies, music, the news media), responses to sexual violence, and the state of reproductive freedom in the U.S. Many are also about race - mostly on portrayals of African-Americans in the news media and in fiction. Then there are a few miscellaneous topics: happy endings, global tragedies, Scrabble tournaments. Some of the essays have a personal focus, but the majority concentrate on cultural commentary.

So the essays do feel a bit scattered, as if they were thrown together from a blog archive. Some are very relevant, such as the essays on how to deal with privilege or the insistence on "likeable" female characters. Others are less so. Some arrive at no conclusions: for instance, the essay on trigger warnings that boils down to "I find them kind of counterproductive and condescending, but if other people want them, well, okay." Others date themselves with their focus on cultural moments with little lasting relevance: while the problems they represent are still with us, what do we care, now, about Todd Akin or Jerry Sandusky?

The essays about representation in the media also underwhelmed me, perhaps because I read many articles and reviews on these topics online.
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