Roxane Gay brings "Difficult Women" to IU
Roxane Gay talked Twitter, Trump and Tatum at her speaking engagement Wednesday night in President’s Hall.
Gay read two excerpts from her recent work, “Difficult Women,” an anthology about women who face sexual assault, infidelity and grief, and answered audience questions about current politics, her upcoming work, writing for screen and comics, and feminism — both its good and bad sides.
Most of the time was spent in a question-and-answer portion, where Gay fielded questions about political action and her avowed love for Channing Tatum.
On Wednesday news broke that Gay, 42, had pulled her forthcoming book, “How to Be Heard,” from her deal with publisher Simon & Schuster, according to BuzzFeed News.
The book publisher had previously made a deal to publish Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos’ novel after he was banned from Twitter for orchestrating a racist harassment campaign against “Ghostbusters” star Leslie Jones.
“I just couldn’t sleep at night thinking, ‘They’re just going to give him a platform for hate?’” Gay said. “I felt like that was a stand I could take to say, ‘We’re not going to normalize racism.’”
Gay told the audience that Yiannopoulos’ advance, $250,000, exceeded the advances for her first five books.
Anna Cabe, a graduate student in the English department, asked Gay how she manages the online harassment she receives.
Her answer was to ignore it, mute it or fire back.
Cabe said Gay’s answer was candid and fulfilled her expectations of the author.
“There’s something kind of new about this age where you can talk to people across the world,” Cabe said. “It opens you up to a torrent of really terrible things that I think our current president has legitimized.”
Kyle Polster, a freshman at IU, said he arrived at Franklin Hall at about 4:30 p.m. to ensure he’d get a seat.
The doors opened at 6:10 p.m. instead of the projected 6:30 p.m. after the line across the hallway in front of President’s Hall had already gone around the corner.
Polster, who has read Gay’s work since his freshman year in high school, said he’s studied her work extensively and watched her TED talk, “Confessions of a Bad Feminist.”
“I’ve probably written about eight papers on her, but there’s something about seeing her in person,” Polster said. “Just holistically, I love how brutally honest she is. She’s wholeheartedly herself. She embraces herself thoroughly.”
Cabe said Gay’s lecture tapped into themes of race and gender that Cabe deals with on a daily basis.
“As a woman of color and as a writer, I admire the way she conducts herself,” Cabe said. “It was really important for me to see her tonight ... She’s a model I might want to follow for myself.”
Gay’s readers can follow that model from her previously published “Bad Feminist,” a collection of essays; a novel, “An Untamed State”; and many other pieces of literary fiction and nonfiction. Her upcoming book, “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body” hits shelves June 13.
This past year Gay made history with poet Yoana Harvey as the first black women to write for Marvel Comics.
The series, “World of Wakanda,” follows a legion of all-female guards who serve the Black Panther’s royal family.
While some students asked questions about Gay’s many works, other questioners sought advice or context for the election and inauguration of President Trump.
Gay said it’s not necessarily the left’s job to reach out to Trump supporters but to keep an eye on local politics, vote whenever possible and wait for some of Trump’s promises about business and the job market to fall through.
“I’m, as with everyone, trying to figure out the next step,” she said.
Like what you are reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.