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by Kate Barrett
Roxane Gay is a force to be reckoned with. Not only is she prolific beyond most of our wildest dreams (she has a novel and book of essays coming out this year and a memoir under contract), she has sharp social insight that she articulates with fearless clarity. These are just a few of the reasons we at Lighthouse are so excited to have her as the next Fly-By guest. At once terrifically funny and downright serious, Gay has an unabashed passion for pop culture and social justice alike. Her ever-active Twitter feed covers everything from the comical woes of apartment hunting to outrage at the latest episode of the Bachelor to diversity in the film industry. All told, she is one fascinating personality and we can’t wait to have her here. (For advanced reading, check out “How to be a Contemporary Writer” on her Tumblr page.)
I caught up with her for a quick interview.
KB. I’ve been reading up, and a lot of what you write is some pretty strong social commentary. You’ve written for The Rumpus, BuzzFeed, and Salon.com on race and gender issues, among other topics. Would you call yourself political? Do you think good writing needs to be political?
RG. I am political but it is not the sum of my being, interests or ambition. I would never say good writing needs to be any one thing, but I always admire writing that is elegant and political, where a writer dares to create something beautiful while also taking a stand.
KB. Well said. You’re also really active on Twitter and social media—is that something you do for yourself or is it more professionally driven? I just know so many writers (myself included) who want to barf every time someone tells them to build a platform. What you do seems so genuine, though, and engaging. How do you do it?! And do you enjoy it?
RG. I live in the middle of nowhere, and am somewhat socially awkward in person. Online, I feel way more confident and it is wonderful to have a connection to community, however sprawling and unwieldy that community might be. Though there may be professional benefits, I definitely use Twitter for myself. It’s an engaging social medium. What I do seems genuine because I am genuine–just having fun talking about silly things or sharing writing and ephemera that interest me. Yes, I will talk about my own work but that’s not the driving force behind my twitter presence.
KB. I hear you like to play poker. Is that a just rumor or are you a card shark?
RG. I love to play poker but I am by no means a card shark. The strategy of the game intrigues me but I tend to lose more than I win because I am impatient despite knowing I should proceed otherwise.
KB. I’m the same way! Except the other half of my problem is I can never remember the order of the cards…so really I don’t know how to play poker at all. But I so love wearing sunglasses inside! The mystery, the intrigue, the margaritas! I guess margaritas are just a thing at the Poker Party, not in poker in general. But I digress. We can’t close things out without talking about An Untamed State, your new novel. I got my hands on a galley copy that’s floating around Lighthouse (we’re all fighting over it) and I’ve read the first couple of chapters. It’s completely brutal. How did you survive writing that kind of subject matter? The opening scene with the abduction is nightmarish.
RG. I knew that I had to go there in writing this novel. I didn’t want to write around the violence. I wanted to look it straight in the eye. I decided that if people can survive such experiences, I can certainly have enough fortitude to write through such experiences.
Please join us on May 17 & 18 to meet and hear from (and perhaps bluff near) Roxane!