Gay, Roxane. Difficult Women. New York: Grove Press, 2017.
Difficult Women is a phenomenal short story collection focusing on women’s lives, most of them turbulent or challenging. There are privileged women in these stories, but they suffer too. This is not a grim and depressing collection, though—the women in these stories hold their own, with a variety of coping strategies. Above all, the women in these stories are interesting. They are characters that within a few pages become fascinating. I felt like I knew some of them.
Like all collections, not everything is for everyone. I enjoyed some stories more than others, certainly. But all have literary and social merit. Be aware that several stories contain descriptions of physical and sexual abuse. By far, my favorite story is the first one, “I Will Follow You.” It’s about two sisters who undergo sexual abuse at a young age and now, as adults, must always be together. It’s a bit harrowing as Gay does discuss the abuse, but the resilience and tenderness of the sisters is just beautiful. I also really appreciated “Noble Things,” which is about a future where the southern states secede and walls are built. I found it very apropos for this political time we are living in.
I recommend Difficult Women for all public and academic libraries. It would also make a fantastic textbook for a literature course.