In February I introduced a “Dorks of Black History” series, a column that profiled two lesser-known literary and musical figures within Black History. Now it’s March, which is Women’s History Month and I’ve decided to go a different route in honoring women’s achievements.
Starting today and for every Wednesday in March I’ll poke fun at the popular #WCW (Women’s Crush Wednesday) hashtag and highlight my own #WHCW (Women’s History Crush Wednesday), namely, a woman I admire who is currently making historical waves in literature or music.
Gay’s writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, The New York Times Book Review,Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, Salon, The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy culture blog and more. She is an Assistant Professor of English at Eastern Illinois University, the essays editor at The Rumpus and co-publisher and editor of the non-profit literary arts collective PANK, which grants readers access to emerging and experimental prose and poetry.
Roxane is my #WHCW because, although she is completely down-to-earth and approachable (Don’t believe me? Follow her on twitter!), she is also a quick-rising and hard-to-miss force in today’s literature scene.
The Haitian author is from Omaha, Nebraska and was one of the only Black kids in her neighborhood and schools growing up. I know firsthand how such an experience can wither at one’s self esteem, but there’s something carelessly courageous about Roxane’s writing: no matter the subject, her perspective is always clear.
In Gay’s refreshingly candid Tumblr blog, she posts tweaked recipes that read like diary entries, book recommendations, and addresses her own fears, insecurities and shortcomings as a writer, giving us hope that if wildly successful and talented people can also procrastinate and abuse Netflix, then maybe, just maybe, our careers aren’t doomed yet.
Gay’s debut novel An Untamed State promises to leave reader’s fingers searing from paper cuts as a result of flipping crisp pages too fast. The novel’s protagonist is Mirielle Duval Jameson, the bull-headed youngest daughter of one of the wealthiest sons in Haiti. Mirielle’s life of privilege is unceremoniously snatched from her when she is kidnapped and held for ransom only to discover that her father has no intention of bargaining with her captors. Mirielle is held captive for thirteen days by seven men: you can imagine what atrocities transpire during that time. After two traumatic weeks, she is returned to her husband and young son, but cannot reconcile her current benign existence with what she has just endured. An Untamed State cannot be reduced to a single-sentence summary; it is about our capabilities for survival and learning to give words, however angry, to our past.
It’s difficult not to be inspired by Roxane Gay, whose literary voice rings like the lone soprano in a choir full of altos: clear, assured, and unwavering.
Who are your #WHCW? Have a suggestion for my next #WHCW? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!