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Difficult Women Hardcover – January 3, 2017

4.2 out of 5 stars 512 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for Difficult Women:

“The characters who inhabit Difficult Women . . . aren’t just characters. They are our mothers, sisters and partners. They are human. They are us.”―USA Today (4/4 stars)

“Sharp, poignant and daring . . . The stories here are myriad, inviting comparisons to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Toni Morrison and Salman Rushdie.”―Houston Chronicle

“There’s a distinct echo of Angela Carter or Helen Oyeyemi at play; dark fables and twisted morality tales sit alongside the contemporary and the realistic . . . It feels like the book we have been waiting for Gay to write.”―Los Angeles Times

“Gay has fun with these ladies . . . With Difficult Women, you really have no idea what’s going to happen next.”―New York Times Book Review

“Because Gay is such a vivid writer, her stories have a remarkable visual sweep . . . Gay writes of chances missed and unexpected joy, love gone awry or resurrected, and the slivers of hope that keep these fascinating women alive.”―Boston Globe

“The language is stark yet meaty; it lives with you the way memories do, in the deepest crevices of the body and mind . . . powerful.”―Arizona Daily Sun

“A master of the short story . . . A tribute not only to difficult women, but also to the circumstances that made them that way.”―BUST Magazine

“Like Joyce Carol Oates’ Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? or Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, this is fiction pressed through a sieve, leaving only the canniest truths behind . . . Addictive, moving and risk-taking.”―San Francisco Chronicle

“Roxane Gay, the acclaimed American essayist and novelist, charges from the gate in her debut collection of short fiction . . . These are the places I’m going to take you, Gay seems to be saying. Are you prepared? . . . Provocation operates on different levels in this collection. First on the level of theme―the presentation of female sexual desire, both masochistic and otherwise, is vigorous and forthright, the language refreshingly frank and graphic―then on the level of technique.”―The Globe and Mail (Canada)

“I’m currently reading Difficult Women, by Roxane Gay, and I’m getting my life from it . . . Roxane Gay seems to have a knack for fearlessly telling the truth. Even in her fiction.”―Gabourey Sidibe, The New York Times Book Review (“By the Book”)

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

“In so many ways, Gay’s Difficult Women feel simultaneously fictitious and like they could (and probably do) live right down the street. Perhaps they even live inside of our coworkers, our friends, our sisters and ourselves . . . Gay’s writing is unparalleled.”―Forbes

Difficult Women . . . deftly and terrifyingly underscores the absurdity of a society tacitly ordered by skin color and the privileges accrued by those who have ended up at the winning end, circled and watched by those who have not . . . Gay peels it all back, exposing the raw, the enraged and the perversely beautiful.”―New Republic

“Gay’s work is as varied as women’s experiences. Each story feels fresh and new, a blanket of snow you both want and don’t want to muddy with a footprint. Difficult Women . . . solidifies Gay’s place as one of the voices of our age.”―National Post (Canada)

“Gay excels in her allowance for human complexity . . . One of the book’s greatest achievements is Gay’s psychological acuity.”―Washington Post

“Writing that seems to cut to the bone . . . These stories of sisters and mothers and daughters and lovers are haunting, and their quiet voices linger . . . they draw you in.”―The Seattle Times

“The stories, phenomenally powerful and beautifully written, demonstrate the threats so many women in reality face, but also how, whatever their situation, they have agency, resilience and identities away from stereotypes created and reinforced by men.”―The Guardian (UK)

“Powerful, sometimes infuriating, often sad and always gentle . . . A wonderful and varied collection of stories, with a terrific range of subjects and emotions giving it just the right balance.”―Toronto Star (Canada)

“The women in Difficult Women are all deliciously complex, and their relationships are just as multifaceted.”―Baltimore City Paper

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

“Her pitch-perfect insights to these female archetypes are so Gay―candid, observant, concise, stirring.”―Ms. Magazine

“Gay is at her best when merging vivid yet straightforward language with stories that contain an element of folklore . . . Refreshing yet intricate, in the vein of Clarence Major’s Chicago Heat and Other Stories.”―Library Journal (starred review)

“Unequivocally excellent . . . roughly urgent and skillfully timeless . . . Gay’s voice is lyrical throughout, mesmeric and unflinching. This collection shocks, despairs and triumphs.”―Bookreporter

“The emotional and interior lives of her difficult women are authentic and affecting.”―The Spinoff (New Zealand)

“This collection begs for a slow, serious reading.”―Minneapolis Star Tribune

“The titular subjects in the literary star’s short-story collection are strippers and engineers, participating in fight clubs and elite suburban dramas. Each one is compelling, thanks to Gay’s illuminating prose.”―Entertainment Weekly

“A collection of short stories that will make your spine tingle with intrigue.”―Bustle.com

“Intimate and powerful . . . an unforgettable story of modern American womanhood. A compelling collection that will stick with you long after you finish the last page.”―Bustle.com

“Women’s lives have been Gay’s most consistent subject . . . In these stories, she writes fearlessly and with insight about love and power between men and women, about the horror of sexual violence and its inescapable aftershocks, about the fierce and flawed tenderness of mothers for their children.”―Tampa Bay Times

“ A powerful collection of short stories about difficult, troubled, headstrong, and unconventional women . . . challenging, quirky, and memorable.”―Publishers Weekly

“Incredible . . . These stories are so lovely the book is best parceled out into multiple readings, so the reader doesn’t miss the nuance and the dark beauty of each tale.”―Charleston Gazette-Mail

Haunting and powerful stories which run the gamut between real and surreal . . . Rendered with great specificity and empathy, Gay’s characters are unforgettable―and certainly, in their own ways, are difficult women, but also real human beings in whom we may all find ourselves reflected.”―Buzzfeed

“Astonishing, arresting, and staggering.”―Book Riot

“The collection is often dark and disturbing, but also deeply empathetic . . . In her deliberate and often exquisite attention to detail, she crafts stories that will haunt the reader long after the book has been put away.”―Washington Independent Review of Books

“Gay tells intimate, deep, wry tales . . . Be they writer, scientist, or stripper, Gay’s women suffer grave abuses, mourn unfathomable losses, love hard, and work harder.”―Booklist

“Roxane Gay is a force . . . These are stories about women, in all of the difficult, glorious, inexplicable forms that we take.”―The Rumpus

“Gay’s writing encompasses so much―simultaneously direct, funny, whipsmart, sometimes painful, and always thought-provoking.”―Chicago Review of Books

“Unified in theme―the struggles of women claiming independence for themselves―but wide-ranging in conception and form . . . Gay is an admirable risk-taker in her exploration of women’s lives and new ways to tell their stories.”―Kirkus Reviews

“Gay is a master of memoir, personal essay, creative nonfiction and lyrical prose, which gives her writing a smart, modern edge that’s hard to look away from.”―FUSE

“[Gay’s] characters . . . aren’t superheroes, and they aren’t intimidating or ‘lethal.’ They are like us, whether they live in gated subdivisions, apartments or run-down houses with sagging ceilings. They . . . are haunted by painful memories of abuse and loss. Some are loved and some are lonely, although these categories are not mutually exclusive. They are horny. They are not nice. They are calloused and bruised and yet, somehow, they endure.”―Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Gay’s collection fuses magic realism, science fiction, and the drama into one space to explore several sides of the feminine label. She creates a world within her stories where the various complexities of the feminine existence―the frigid, the aggressive, the broken–can coexist in one place. They can not only coexist in this place but thrive in their own way, without masculine critique or misguided influences. Difficult Women is an amazing and brilliant collection of stories that need to be required reading in a post-Trump society.” ―Wear Your Voice

“It is impossible to read Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women and not be chilled by its prescience . . . Gay is an engaging, beguiling storyteller who . . . captures the fragility of love and the awful mundaneness when relationships start to fail . . . One of the most important writers in contemporary English literature.”―Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)

About the Author

Roxane Gay is the author of the novel An Untamed State, which was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Fiction; the essay collection Bad Feminist; Ayiti, a multi-genre collection; and the memoir Hunger, forthcoming from Harper. She is at work on a memoir, Hunger, and a comic book in Marvel’s Black Panther series. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, West Branch, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, the New York Times, the Guardian, Bookforum, Time, the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, Salon, and many others. She is a recipient of the PEN Center USA Freedom to Write Award, among other honors. She splits her time between Indiana and Los Angeles.

Product details

  • Hardcover : 272 pages
  • Item Weight : 15.2 ounces
  • ISBN-10 : 0802125395
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0802125392
  • Dimensions : 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.1 inches
  • Publisher : Grove Press; First Edition (January 3, 2017)
  • Language: : English
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.2 out of 5 stars 512 ratings

Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5
512 global ratings
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Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on August 10, 2017
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Top reviews from other countries

Hannah Carrier
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and difficult to read, as most women’s lives are.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 29, 2018
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Betty Cool
4.0 out of 5 stars One or two of the stories felt very autobiographical even though I knew nothing about the author.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 25, 2020
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raffa
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 10, 2018
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Sari B
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 5, 2018
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Akua G
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read, I’d recommend!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 22, 2020
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