"Difficult woman" is a loaded term, but writer Roxane Gay isn't afraid of taking on ideas with baggage. (A few years ago, she wrote a book of essays called Bad Feminist.) Her new short story collection, Difficult Women, explores women's lives and issues of race, class and sex.
The book opens with "I Will Follow You," an intense story about a pair of sisters whose closeness is the result of a sexual assault when they were girls. Gay tells NPR's Audie Cornish that it's both dark and hopeful at the same time.
"Despite the trauma that these two girls endure, they remain very close and they have an unbreakable bond," she says. "And I was really interested in that unbreakable bond and in how they will follow each other no matter what, no matter where, because they've already been to the worst possible place. And so that felt like a really great way to introduce readers to my stories of women who go to impossible places but are fighting to find their way back."
On "North Country," a story about a woman engineer in Michigan's Upper Peninsula
She's an engineer, which is a male-dominated field, and so she and women who are in that field are often grappling with being a professional and acting professionally and having the men around them see them as a personal conquest and as dating fodder, rather than a colleague with whom they can be professional. ... I love exploring that sort of danger of who do you trust, who do you turn to when you never know who's a predator and who is promising?