Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women


“Her husband always said, ‘Baby, you are perfect,’ and she flushed angrily. His assurances were so reflexive as to be insulting.”

This entire book is a collection of short stories. I hadn’t really read an anthology like this since “Chicken Soup For The Soul,” which is a lot more campy. I highlighted some of the quotes because they appealed to me on one level or another.

“Their voices are deep and velvety in the way of women who know things.”

The secret knowing of an experienced woman, so attractive to many. Or, when someone tells you something they don’t mean only to make you feel better. This one reminded me of my grandmother; she was from Mexico, but low-key very British.


“At night, I sit in my apartment and watch TV and search for faculty positions and other carer opportunities closer to the center of the world.”

It’s often said that certain educational segments are getting over-saturated with candidates. The qualifications of these candidates in question. It really takes careful filtering to see whose qualified for those positions. I feel like such a dick sometimes for thinking that schools are way too easy on students these days; we should be harder and filter with greater finesse those actually worthy to be in universities. But, that’s just me.


“It is a remarkable thing, the stone thrower often thinks, being able to see such intimacies, being able to see the separation of her whole into parts.”

For some reason reason, this quote reminded me of the movie “The Cell” with Jennifer Lopez. There is that scene where the cow horse gets cut into several different slices. The heart is still beating even a few seconds after.


“I looked at Teresa, saw how hard living had taken up residence in her features.”

I had that look once. Bags under my eyes, tired, hair that lacked that healthy shine. It was also the look my last employer had when he “let me go.” Utterly exhausted. I looked my face in the mirror later that day, and I laughed. “Como la fresca lechuga,” my Grandma Maria would have said. Like fresh lettuce.


“Every time that man sank his fists into my body, I could breathe a little. I used one hurt to cover another.”

How can you break all the way down when you are already broken? At what point do all the tears dry up? Bone. Soul. Dreams. The hurt gets covered over by … what? Cute, cheap stickers? Leave it bare.


“We play games because we can and we like it. Most days these games keep us together, somehow.”

Only people with no purpose seem to be able to afford the games. No immediate purpose. Or, maybe I’m just bitter. See the previous chapter. Obviously, I don’t play much. I don’t have much of a taste for it. It’s a rare privilege for some to witness.


“There are things you do not know about me. These things are not inconsequential.”

I will write or speak of those things in detail freely some day. For now, they rest in peace in my head. It may take a long time to speak or write about them. That’s how much it hurt. The silence is the only remedy for the wound that I found works.


“My husband and I often ask unanswerable questions of each other. Should we give up? Should we find other partners? Why are we putting ourselves through this?

Thanksgiving is around the corner; the title reminded me. It’s the doubt that tortures the sensitive soul. Maybe mine has roughened out? Is that even grammatically correct? Whatever. Nevermind. The shadow of the truth for better or for worse. But, isn’t it always like that? Humanity craves certainty. Few can survive in that space of ambiguity, especially couples from my observations.


“Each word and every sentence in Difficult Women invites instead of repels the reader. Her erudition and ardor always strive for connection, and her blunt stories are anchored by curiosity and emotional depth while avoiding the maudlin, or needlessly grotesque plots.”

“Repels and invites,” I would have said it is a kind of romantic survey. There’s something utterly melancholic about it. A picture of the contemporary woman, female. A little bit of something for everyone. The only thing missing were the LGBTQ+ unicorns.

Worked Cited

Gay, Roxane. Difficult Women. First Grove Atlantic, 2017.

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