A Tired Rant About “Female” Writers

I have seen this list of 21 women authors you “should be reading,” passed around. I  have thoughts about the composition of the list, though I am thrilled to see Elliott Holt named because I loved her debut novel last year.  

No two lists will ever be the same and this list at least makes an attempt at diversity, albeit a… hmm… narrow sort of diversity, right? Like, no African American women? No Latinas? No South Asian writers? And at what point do we stop using Amy Tan and Louise Erdrich as the sole beacons of literary light for people who look like them? To be clear, these women are absolutely women of color (along with Smith, Adichie, Danticat, Selasi) you should be reading, but they are not the only ones.

We shouldn’t be reading anyone JUST because they are a woman or black or Asian or queer or any other mark of identity. We should be reading such that we can look at what you consume and recognize a diversity of perspectives from writers hailing from a diversity of backgrounds and ways of seeing the world. 

I have also been thinking about the ReadWomen2014 campaign. I have been thinking, “What a sad state of affairs it is, that people need to be reminded or instructed to read women.” If you need this reminder or instruction, I mean, come on! What is going on there?

It is exhausting that we are still trying to convince a certain segment of the population that women are equal to men, that women deserve respect and fair consideration in all professional and creative and personal realms. It is especially frustrating in the literary community, because I am part of this community. These are my people, or at least, that’s what I would hope.

I cannot believe we need to count and point out worthy women writers like we’re begging for scraps at the table of due respect and consideration. 

Sadly, we are there or we wouldn’t be reminding each other to Read Women and look at this list of great women and that list of great South Asian writers and this other list of queer writers you should know. And I, for one, will continue to read these lists and learn from them and contribute to them because the need is significant.

In a better world though, we wouldn’t read a woman writer because we’re women or ::insert identifying characteristic::. We would read a writer because they might be awesome or terrible or they might intrigue or infuriate us and we want to know more. We would take a fucking chance because that’s so much of what we do when we read. We take a book into our hands. We turn the first page. We wait to see where a writer will take us, what they will show us. We hope for the best and sometimes we’re disappointed and sometimes our faith is rewarded and sometimes when we are luckiest, we are utterly transported. Reading is the one realm where I am an idealist.

I look forward to the day we can stop obsessing over the tour guide and surrender to the sights. 

Shorter version: be better readers.

groveatlanticinc:

BOSTON, MA

Monday, May 5 at 7:00pm

Brookline Booksmith

279 Harvard St.

http://www.brooklinebooksmith-shop.com/event/roxane-gay-untamed-state

———

BROOKLYN, NY

Tuesday, May 6 at 7:00pm

In Conversation with Sari Botton

Community Bookstore of Park Slope

Co-sponsored by…

newsweek:

Micheline Bérnard always loved Lionel Desormeaux. Their parents were friends though that bonhomie had not quite carried on to the children.

Micheline and Lionel went to primary and secondary school together, had known each other all their lives—when Lionel looked upon Micheline he was always overcome with the vague feeling he had seen her somewhere before while she was overcome with the precise knowledge that he was the man of her dreams.

In truth, everyone loved Lionel Desormeaux. He was tall and brown with high cheekbones and full lips. His body was perfectly muscled and after a long day of swimming in the ocean, he would emerge from the salty water, glistening.

Micheline would sit in a cabana, invisible. She would lick her lips and she would stare. She would think, “Look at me, Lionel,” but he never did.

When Lionel walked, there was an air about him. He moved slowly but with deliberate steps and sometimes, when he walked, people swore they could hear the bass of a deep drum. His mother, who loved her only boy more than any other, always told him, “Lionel, you are the son of L’Ouverture.”

He believed her. He believed everything his mother ever told him. Lionel always told his friends, “My father freed our people. I am his greatest son.” In Port-au-Prince, there were too many women. Micheline knew competition for Lionel’s attention was fierce. She was attractive, petite. She wore her thick hair in a sensible bun.

On weekends, she would let that hair down and when she walked by, men would shout, “Quelle belle paire de jambes,” what beautiful legs, and Micheline would savor the thrilling taste of their attention. Most Friday nights, Micheline and her friends would gather at Oasis, a popular nightclub on the edge of the Bel Air slum. She drank fruity drinks and smoked French cigarettes and wore skirts revealing just the right amount of leg.

Lionel was always surrounded by a mob of adoring women. He let them buy him rum and Cokes and always sat at the center of the room wearing his pressed linen slacks and dark tee shirts that showed off his perfect, chiseled arms.

At the end of the night, he would select one woman to take home, bed her thoroughly, and wish her well the following morning. The stone path to his front door was lined with the tears and soiled panties of the women Lionel had sexed then scorned.

On her birthday, Micheline decided she would be the woman Lionel took home. She wore a bright sundress, strapless. She dabbed perfume everywhere she wanted to feel Lionel’s lips. She wore high heels so high her brother had to help her into the nightclub.

When Lionel arrived to hold court, Micheline made sure she was closest. She smiled widely and angled her shoulders just so and leaned in so he could see everything he wanted to see within her ample cleavage. At the end of the night, Lionel nodded in her direction. He said, “Tonight you will know the affections of L’Ouverture’s greatest son.”

There is No “E” in Zombi Which Means There Can Be No You Or We by Roxane Gay - Guernica

Q

sydney-michellington asked:

I know you must be a busy, busy person so I won't be upset if you don't answer this - but I had to try: 1. What authors have inspired you to write? 2. How important are your character's names? 3. What do you consider your biggest accomplishment? 4. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? 5. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? 6. If you weren’t a writer, what profession would you like to have? 7. What literary character is most like you? (cont'd)

A

I know you must be a busy, busy person so I won’t be upset if you don’t answer this - but I had to try:

This is a lot of questions. I will offer some very short answers.

1. What authors have inspired you to write?

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Edith Wharton, James Baldwin, Danielle Steele

2. How important are your character’s names?

As important as a person’s name is to them

3. What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?

Being alive

4. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I was like 4 years old.

5. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Give a damn about what you do, work hard, know that sometimes your best won’t be good enough and that’s okay. It’s them not you.

6. If you weren’t a writer, what profession would you like to have?

Cake decorator like Peeta

7. What literary character is most like you? 

Gosh, I don’t know. 

8. Which of your own characters is most like you?

Hmmm. Emotionally, I am quite a lot like Mireille in my novel An Untamed State which is, BTW, out on May 6. 

9. What are your current ongoing projects?

I am working on a nonfiction book and thinking through an anthology project and some short stories and essays and three novels. 

10. Do you ever experience writer’s block and if so, how do you get rid of it?

I certainly do. I generally try to chill and read something awesome or go to the movies and find some kind of inspiration. 

11. What does your writing process look like?

I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want to write and really immersing myself in the topic or a character or a setting, and then I give myself over to the writing. 

12. What advice would you give to your younger self? 

Be kind to yourself. You deserve kindness. 

Ten Amazing Things About The Mellon Lifestyle

First read this awesome article about rich people. You may recall that I love when the New York Times writes about rich people. 

1. This guy’s pants. They are very fashion forward and I admire that.

2. “They are not exactly starting from the gutter.”

3. He called his ex-wife to let her know he had found his next wife. “It’s all very cordial.” SIR….

4. “Lifestyle website”

5. “I’ve never been to Africa, but I feel like I have this deep affinity for it,” Ms. Hanley Mellon said. “I’ve read every Hemingway, we collect Peter Beard, I’ve watched ‘Out of Africa.’ It touches your soul to visit and smell the smells, and you can’t recreate the experience without immersing yourself.”

This is something a human of New York actually said, out loud, to a reporter but more importantly, a human thinks that these things are approximations of Africa. 

6. “wardrobe staples for a jet-set life”

7. The children’s amazing names.

8. The name-dropping, old money, disdainful comments about “technology” whilst sharing an Instagram handle

9. See No. 5.

10. “dress shoes with sneaker soles.” 

I travel a lot and in airports I have the opportunity to see a great many soldiers. Some are in fatigues, bulky backpacks slung over their shoulders. Others are in their dress uniform, everything about them sleek and disciplined, right down to their spit-shined shoes. In airports, I see a lot of gratitude toward these soldiers. As they walk through terminals, people stop to thank them for their service. American Airlines makes a point of offering uniformed soldiers priority boarding. Soldiers can have free access to most airport clubs. These gestures are certainly well-intended, but there is also something hollow to them because they are filled with the misguided idea that we understand what we are giving thanks for and the hope that there might be just recompense for a soldier’s service.

NOMI MALONE FOREVER

The Idea of Him

I watched the movie Last Vegas last night. The only thing you really need to know is that Last Vegas is a commercial for the following products: Aria in Vegas, Southwest Airlines, Budweiser, Grey Goose Vodka, Sapphire Bombay Gin and various makes of automobiles.

But Morgan Freeman is in this movie and I love Morgan Freeman. I have written about this before, with xTx. She wrote about famous ladies and I wrote about famous men. But I am still stuck on Morgan Freeman. I love the freckles on his face. I want to connect them with my mouth.  I love his skin tone. He smells so good—cologne and Ivory soap and linen spray and I don’t even know what. I love the honey bourbon soaked timbre of his voice. What I love most is how Morgan Freeman plays an older man—with such pathos and gravitas. He is God and the president and all great and powerful men all at once. He is charming and wise but vulnerable. He has a heart and he is not afraid to show it. Morgan Freeman is at peak Morgan Freemanness in Last Vegas. In the movie, he has recently suffered a mild stroke but he is still full of life. His son is Michael Ealy so you know the DNA is good. He is willing to gamble and wins. He does this amazing little dance move, holding one hand to his stomach as he shuffles his feet like an elderly James Brown. He’s still got it. My god does he still got it. He is a gentleman and will defend a lady’s honor in a crowded nightclub. He offers advice to young men who simply don’t know how to talk to a woman like a human being. He enjoys a good drink. I feel like Morgan Freeman would, as his character in this movie, as Archie, be a very passionate lover. He would know things about a woman’s body, how to touch a woman’s body, how to satisfy her needs. He has a nice tongue and strong thighs. Don’t try and dissuade me of this. Let me have this one thing. I bet Morgan Freeman’s skin would be so soft. I would probably always say his first and last name because there is no Freeman without Morgan and there is no Morgan without Freeman, not for me. I want to touch all of his skin and especially his cheeks, behind his knees, the undersides of his elbows. I want to trace the dark lines on his hands. I want to kiss his patella. I don’t know why. I even want to nibble on Morgan Freeman’s well-manicured fingernails. I just want Morgan Freeman to know I accept all of him. Because he’s older, I would happily rub various ointments into his tender places. Each morning, when we woke, I would ask him, “Tell me where it hurts, Morgan Freeman,” and when he showed me, I would kiss and make it better. I would administer his medications on the proper schedule and rigorously consult Google to ensure that there were no potentially harmful interactions. I would accompany him to doctor appointments and always wear very fine underthings (La Perla, Agent Provacateur, etc) so he could know about this intimate secret when we are out in pubic and then later, he could unearth these intimate secrets, handle with care. I would prepare Morgan Freeman delicious and extravagant but healthy meals. I would try not to wear him out at night but sometimes, well, a lot of the time, I would be insatiable and greedy for Morgan Freeman and he would be okay with that. I would  try to like his friends, even if they smoked cigars or smelled funny. I would take such good care of the idea of Morgan Freeman. I would say, “Morgan Freeman, real man who I am confusing with the various characters he plays in the movies, I want you to live forever and ever.” He would smile at me, you know how he does, with his eyes crinkling at the corners and his lips stretching seductively, slowly across his perfect face. He would say something ambiguous like, “I know,” and I would hear something unambiguous like, “I fucking love you so much.” 

Sometimes, when I think about Morgan Freeman I just want to cry. I love the idea of him so much.  

gideongordongraves:

smithsonian:

Protip: This is a really bad question to ask when visiting the National Mall. We have 8 buildings surrounding the Mall, and a total of 19 museums, 9 research centers and the National Zoo. A S.H.I.E.L.D agent should know better! 
(We think she means the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in this case.)  

SMITHSONIAN THROWING MAJOR SHADE! 
gideongordongraves:

smithsonian:

Protip: This is a really bad question to ask when visiting the National Mall. We have 8 buildings surrounding the Mall, and a total of 19 museums, 9 research centers and the National Zoo. A S.H.I.E.L.D agent should know better! 
(We think she means the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in this case.)  

SMITHSONIAN THROWING MAJOR SHADE! 
gideongordongraves:

smithsonian:

Protip: This is a really bad question to ask when visiting the National Mall. We have 8 buildings surrounding the Mall, and a total of 19 museums, 9 research centers and the National Zoo. A S.H.I.E.L.D agent should know better! 
(We think she means the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in this case.)  

SMITHSONIAN THROWING MAJOR SHADE! 
gideongordongraves:

smithsonian:

Protip: This is a really bad question to ask when visiting the National Mall. We have 8 buildings surrounding the Mall, and a total of 19 museums, 9 research centers and the National Zoo. A S.H.I.E.L.D agent should know better! 
(We think she means the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in this case.)  

SMITHSONIAN THROWING MAJOR SHADE! 

gideongordongraves:

smithsonian:

Protip: This is a really bad question to ask when visiting the National Mall. We have 8 buildings surrounding the Mall, and a total of 19 museums, 9 research centers and the National Zoo. A S.H.I.E.L.D agent should know better! 

(We think she means the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in this case.)  

SMITHSONIAN THROWING MAJOR SHADE! 

I watched the first few seasons of The Biggest Loser avidly. The show offered the ultimate fat girl fantasy—go to a “ranch” for a few months, and under the pressure of intense personal trainers, low caloric intake, the manipulations of reality show producers and the constant surveillance of television cameras, lose the weight you’ve never been able to lose on your own.