Author Roxane Gay poses for a portrait.

Roxane Gay has never shied away from writing about racism, being overweight, sexual assault or her bisexuality. Her new book of short stories, “Difficult Women,” dives deep into these same topics. She joins us to talk about her work, the language of protest and Simon & Schuster canceling Milo Yiannopoulos’ book. Gay pulled out of her deal with the publisher in January after it extended a $250,000 contract to the provocateur associated with Breitbart News.

Writer Roxane Gay on Speaking Up, Female Friendship and ‘Difficult Women’ 22 February,2017Mina Kim

Roxane Gay, author, "Difficult Women," "Bad Feminist," "An Untamed State" and "World of Wakanda"

  • Kevin Skipper

    Ms ‘Gay.’ You should have followed Chris Rock’s example, not Jada Pinkett Smith’s. You’re no thelping anyone by refusing to get your money.
    Don’t worry about Milo. He’s making HIS money with NO apologies. Do you, Sista-Gurl! smh. I mean the company is called Simon and Schuster. What do you expect? Social responsibility? Political correctness? Historical accuracy? Sorry. Wrong ‘culture.’

    Another installment in KQED’s ongoing monument to the big, bold and black female! They can get enough! A radical, queer, overweight woman of color who gave up a book deal because her publisher isn’t interested in censorship. I see. Perhaps the genius or at least, rationality of such a move will reveal itself in what promises to be an eye-opening interview.

    I guess this is KQED’s last ditch effort to celebrate Black History/Japanese Relocation Anniversary Month. Black women supporting liberal populisms need for colored resentment, frustration and anger. Really the only black face that we see on your show. Pretty much the limit to which this station involves itself in black issues. Black, unincarcerated men below the age of 70 are apparently not part of your listener demographic. Only the partially (and misanthropically) educated women who are so conspicuously alienated from us.

    • Kevin Skipper

      I heard you mention that you’ve been offered much more money for your book and can easily afford to pay back Simon and Schuster’s advance. I applaud that. Hope to hear of more such outcomes.

    • Kevin Skipper

      “Perhaps the genius or at least, rationale of such a move will reveal itself in what promises to be an eye-opening interview.”

      Turns out both the genius and rationale were, indeed, revealed. Nice to see my sarcasm (was it?;) proven misplaced.

      Actually gets me thinking about that Black Panther project. That story is, if nothing else revelatory. The secret female order of the Imperial Wakandan Guard. That’s gonna be heavy!!!!

  • Kevin Skipper

    The flurry of opposing commentary is staggering.

  • Another Mike

    This is funny, because one of my wife’s good friends moved from the Bay Area to teach writing at Michigan Tech. Now I’m thinking that Ann Brady was Ms. Gay’s advisor.

  • Kevin Skipper

    Sounds like the level of critique that one would find in the more articulate corners of a BLM protest. Insulting only in light of the fact that Ms Gay represents the immense talent that is often associated with Black artists, writers and thinkers. While I’m a fan of Black Panther and look forward to World Of Wakanda, lets be real. The story is a fantasy take-off of 1950’s Captain America comics. I’m concerned that Black America is being subjected to a domestic brain drain in which our most capable people are employed in campaigns that focus on anything but and aside from ACTUAL, ACCURATE Black American History.

    I’ll believe Marvel Comics’ claim of including black and/or queer female

    I can tell you right now. There are PLENTY of black female stereotypes in comics. African print, escaping from univerally abusive and scary black men. Politely undesirable in the presence of white females, restricted to simplistic vignettes like Black Panther’s protests, nursing or clerical work… Marvel has been dragging its feet on Black Panther for decades. Wonder how much more talent they’ll tie up in the process.

  • Kevin Skipper

    In Michigan, every black person is from Detroit. In the Bay Area, every black woman is strong and comes from a background lacking positive male input, especially from black males. Having been raised by women, I know that this is a reality but feel that there is an unbalanced desire for these stories to broadly characterize black America. Seems these stories don’t serve ANY of us, only the careful brush of “mainstream” (white) feminism as it supports the privilege and functionality of white women as their interests are shared and invested in by patriarchal, white supremacist culture. Seems especially pervasive in our youngest generation as it lacks the leaders and awareness of generations past.

    Oh sh*t. We’re talking about the bachelor. Black bachelorette? An unmarried black woman taking repeated dates in her home, on camera!?!?! Best opportunity for black feminism since….’Scandal?”

    Hmmm. I thought we had already tackled the Hottentot archetype in middle school sociology!!!

    I’ll pause and listen to the effeminate white boy ask you how you, as a black woman you stay sane in the face of all the “hateful news and denials of your humanity.”

    • Another Mike

      The exception was Muhammad Ali, who retired to tiny Berrien Springs, Michigan, in the southwest fruit belt, near a Seventh Day Adventist college.

      • Kevin Skipper

        Exception to what? Ali was a man but his success was constantly portrayed in the context of the Civi Rights Movement and the recognition of an American sports hero, hardly a new device with Prized Negroes and Magical Bucks.

        • Another Mike

          Black Michiganders are not all from Detroit.

          • Kevin Skipper

            The Ann Arbor chapter of the Black Panthers thanks you for that bulletin.

  • Mary Ellen Cuykendall

    This discussion is so timely for me. I am a 62 year old woman writing about my experience with sexual assault that lasted 20+ years. From assault as a child, to date rape as a teenager, to getting involved with prostitution as a young woman. Prostitution saved my life, put me in control of my body and the men who wanted it, and allowed me to move onto years of therapy.
    I’m very grateful to hear this interview and look forward to reading your works.

    • Another Mike

      An amazing (to me) number of sex workers were molested as quite young children. Sexuality is also used as a tool to escape abuse, by trading it for housing with or without marriage.

  • Daniel Solnit

    For many men, even those of us who identify as feminist, it’s difficult to be fully aware of how much crap women have to deal with daily. By making this more visible and emotionally understandable, Roxanes writing is profoundly important to men too.

    Being an abuse survivor is NOT a reason to dismiss Roxane’s portrayals of male characters; on the contrary, since most women in this culture have experienced mistreatment by men, it makes her more qualified to speak about other women’s experience.

    • Kevin Skipper

      Black women make up a fraction of the female population but are called upon to tell 95% of the abuse stories. Who qualifies that?

  • Kevin Skipper

    In my best Djimon Honsou impression:

    “Sister, what has liberalism done for YOU?” Feminism? You’re carrying THEM! I can’t take it anymore…

  • Kevin Skipper

    Thanks Mina Kim for a great interview with an intelligent and inspiring guest,

    • Fielding Mellish

      Who are you and what have you done with the real Kevin Skipper !?

      • Kevin Skipper

        I appreciate the successful connection between the host and the guest. Granted, Gay gives an interviewer a lot to work with, the conversation came across as unstrained and open to new discovery.

        One of the cool things about hearing two professional women of color talk to each other. They tend to listen too! This comes across clearly and incites the listener (me) to do the same.

        As always, I made it a point to freely dump out my incidental (perhaps triggered) responses but at the same time, I paused and listened to the way that the guest illustrated HER experiences in a way that informed what SHE is able to bring to her work. Serves as a great reminder that regardless of my various views about the spirit or context by which certain subjects or writers are presented by a given media outlet, they represent people who have chosen to make it a point to see that their stories are heard.

        I rejoiced to have my question about her rejection of the S&S book deal in light of what I believe to have been, itself a fake news story. I felt critical of the idea of a anyone, especially a Black woman letting any puppet influence their money. In the end, my criticism proved misplaced. Not only did she refuse to share a publisher’s bill with a professed racist agitator, but she effectively landed a better deal.

        From there, the conversation led into the subject of trauma, compassion an forgiveness. Gay mentioned her self-forgiveness of the fact that she is not always forgiving. I really dug that. Made me think, as do many of the best interviews for which NPR (and, admittedly, KQED) are known for.

        My final hats-off is, again, to Mina for not comparing Roxanne Gay to Alice Walker!!!
        A KQED Forum first deserving of recognition. I just hope if didn’t require them to bind and/or gag the venerable Professor Krasny.

  • Mike Mueller

    I enjoyed the conversation about World of Wakanda. After working my way through the Black Panther canon going back to the sixties, I’m ready to get into Coates’ take on the Black Panther and Ms. Gay’s World of Wakanda. How should one read World of Wakanda – as a prequel or as a companionship piece to the Black Panther? Anyone into this?


Mina Kim

Mina Kim is KQED News’ evening anchor and the Friday host of Forum. She reports on a wide range of issues affecting the Bay Area and interviews newsmakers, local leaders and innovators.

Mina started her career in public radio at KQED as an intern with Pacific Time. When the station began expanding its local news coverage in 2010, she became a general assignment reporter, then health reporter for The California Report. Mina’s award-winning stories have included on-the-scene reporting of the 2014 Napa earthquake and a series on gun violence in Oakland.

Her work has been recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association.

Mina grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Oak Park, CA. She lives in Napa.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor