Spotlight Review: BAD FEMINIST by Roxane Gay


From the publisher:

A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched cultural observers of her generation.

In these funny and insightful essays, Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better, coming from one of our most interesting and important cultural critics.

New York Times Bestseller • Best Book of the Year: NPR • Boston Globe • Newsweek • Time Out New York • • Miami Herald • Book Riot • Buzz Feed • Globe and Mail (Toronto) • The Root • Shelf Awareness

I’m a long time admirer of Roxane Gay, but this is the first book of hers that I read. Over the years I’ve read many of her essays in various publications like New York Magazine, VQR, The New York Times, and many more. This book is part of the Social Impact Book Series that I facilitate at Lynn University. The essays are divided into five parts: Me; Gender & Sexuality; Race & Entertainment; Politics, Gender & Race; and Back to Me.

It was originally published in 2014, and I’m sorry to say there is one essay about Bill Cosby that has not held up. In fact, Gay wrote about Cosby later on, updating her position in The Empty Chair & 35 Women Standing Up to Bill Cosby, Rapist. Then again, most of us loved Bill Cosby until his actions forced us into hating him.

Other essays include the eponymous “Bad Feminist,” in which she says, “The more I write, the more I put myself out into the world as a bad feminist but, I hope, a good woman.” She describes herself as “a mess of contradictions” and discusses the dichotomy of thinking herself a feminist yet listening to rap music that degrades women, knowing nothing about cars, hating how women are held to impossible beauty standards yet being a voracious Vogue reader. I think most women struggle with these and other dichotomies as well, and I certainly can relate.

In this collection, Gay explores what it means to be a woman in America in this century. She explores her own imperfections, thus shining the light on our own and helping us understand that we are all imperfect. Her voice is always engaging and I found myself reading just one more and then one more after that. At times funny and sad and everything in between, Gay takes us on her very personal journey yet somehow I found it very relatable, and that is no easy feat. An easy book to pick up and a bit tougher to put down, this is a collection that is worth seeking out.

NOTE: Roxane Gay Books is a new imprint of Grove Atlantic announced in May. 2021 and will “focus on underrepresented fiction, nonfiction and memoir writers, with or without agents.” (NYT) I am not aware of any books that have been published yet.

3/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

BAD FEMINIST by Roxane Gay. Harper Perennial; 1st edition (August 5, 2014). ISBN: 978-0062282712. 336p.




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