Roxane Gay is an award-winning and prolific writer who does not let genre bind her. Her work ranges from nonfiction essays to comics and graphic novels to fiction. This does not even touch on her newsletter writing, opinion pieces for The New York Times, and work on television and film projects. Plus, Gay has won multiple awards like the Eisner Award and Guggenheim Fellowship. Since her writing is vast, it’s hard to know where to start with Roxane Gay books and other writing. Here’s your guide.
Best Nonfiction Roxane Gay Books
What Gay is most well known for is her essay writing. She has a sharp insight that cuts through much of the drivel. Unafraid to tackle difficult topics such as racism, sexism, and class, she is constantly monitoring the culture to provide commentary from an often disregarded perspective. Her essay collections are proving to stand the test of time and are just as relevant today as when they were published.
Bad Feminist is absolutely where you have to start with Roxane Gay. It’s a collection of insightful essays that examine what it’s like being Black and a woman. Some essays are a commentary on modern feminism and culture, from Twitter to Django Unchained and Tyler Perry. That might sound like an intimidating place to start, but Gay confesses in the book that she’s not good at any of this feminism stuff yet and is still learning herself: “I’d rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”
Gay writes with the intimacy and candor about her struggles with food and her body. She uses her own struggles as a way to open the conversation to why we have so much anxiety about appearance, pleasure, and health in our society as a whole. In Hunger, she explores her past to understand more fully how we got here. For her, she pinpoints an act of violence in her youth that was a turning point in her life, a moment of stark before and after. From there, she takes us step by step through how she’s learning to love and care for herself, by feeding her hungers.
Best Fiction Roxane Gay Books
Roxane Gay’s short stories are next in her great work. They can be found in multiple anthologies including The Best American Short Stories, Best Sex Writing, and multiple literary magazines such as Virginia Quarterly Review and Tin House. The full length novel mentioned below was inspired by a short story she had written previously.
Part of the Out of Line Collection with other authors such as Cheryl Strayed and Caroline Kepnes, Graceful Burdens is a short story about a different world where women are genetically profiled before they are allowed to reproduce. Hadley is deemed not acceptable to procreate, but she has an option. Those who are unlicensed for motherhood can go to the baby library to borrow an infant for two weeks at a time. She goes, hoping to alleviate her sorrow and frustration. The two weeks is only a temporary reprieve and makes Hadley start to question herself and her society that reroutes her future.
Mirielle is living a fairytale perfect life in Haiti. She comes from a wealthy family, has a good job, a devoted husband, and a precocious young child. The fairytale quickly turns into a nightmare when Mirielle is kidnapped in broad daylight in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. The kidnapper, who calls himself The Commander, demands a high ransom from her father, but he’s unwilling to give in to “animals.” As a result, Mirielle endures The Commander’s rage and resentment for all she stands for in his mind. On the surface this book is about class and the nuance of Haiti, but it’s really about what a woman absorbs and the contradictions she must face in befores and afters. Trigger warning: this book contains sexual violence.
Comics and Graphic Novels by Roxane Gay
The last category, but certainly not the least of her work, is her writing for graphic novels and comic book series — award winning writing, I might add.
Aneka and Ayo have been recruited for Dora Milaje, an elite group of female bodyguards who protect the Wakanda crown. The Dora Milaje requires them to give everything to their king and country, including their hearts. The problem is, Aneka and Ayo’s hearts already belong to each other. The central story is a romance between the two and the struggle of their love for each other and their vows to the Dora Milaje.
The Banks are an intergenerational family of thieves. The women have been successfully stealing for years with the motto of never get greedy. When the youngest Banks finds the heist of a lifetime, it brings three generations of Banks together for an incredible score and the chance for revenge against wrongs of the past. The first in a collection of six, it’s easy to marathon read these on after the other.
Still not completely sold on Roxane Gay’s writing? Check out some of her quotes to get a taste of her writing style.
Already a stan and looking for more? Here are 50 must read books recommended by Roxane Gay.