Book Review: Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay

It took me a few weeks to finish Bad Feminist, a new collection of essays from author Roxane Gay (An Untamed State). Not because it was difficult reading, but because the essays in Bad Feminist proved so thought-provoking as to require time between sections for reflection and thought.

Bad Feminist spans a surprising range of subjects for a book of its title; topics include everything from fat camp to why The Help (book and
movie) was awful, competitive Scrabble to loving the color pink, rape to reproductive rights. But regardless of subject, Gay brings a solid mix of sociology, political commentary, and self-reflection to her essays, making each topic shine in a way that may not have happened had the essays been limited to either sociology, political commentary, or memoir.

Gay does not hesitate to put herself on the pages of Bad Feminist. She recounts her experiences at fat camp as a child and her struggles with weight; the horrible rape she suffered in high school; her experiences participating in competitive Scrabble; her search for love and romance; her continued search to find people like her on television and in movies with little success. This sense of self is ultimately what made Gay's collection so powerful to me--in her writing, she manages to tell a story and ask big questions, but by putting herself in the context of her opinions, she forced me--and hopefully will force others--to think differently about how we all fit together in this crazy, mixed-up world.

As a white woman of relative means, I have never wondered where my next meal will come from or wished that I could see more characters similar to myself on television. If I hadn't married young, I'd probably be just like the girls in Girls (though, having never actually seen the television show, I guess I'm not entirely sure I can or should claim that). I have not suffered sexual assault, nor have I struggled with my weight or my race. And for all of that, I am eternally, unspeakably, grateful.

Bad Feminist, though, is a reminder that who I am is not as standard or as normal as I would like to believe. It is a reminder to step back and try to see the world through different eyes. It is a collection that will long live on my shelves, and to which I will return, time and time again, to remember to think about my place in the world, and others' places, how they intersect, and how they don't.


Note: Thanks to the publisher for providing a digital copy of this title to review.
Bad Feminist | Roxane Gay | Harper Perennial | August 2014 | 336 pages


  1. Dying to read this one. Gay is so smart and sharp. I know this is going to blow my socks off.

  2. Like everyone, I want to read this. And then I just had an incredible thought - audio book. If Gay were reading her essays herself, i think it would be unstoppable. Must check it out.

  3. Some serious reflection in this post. Kudos for voicing it. I've been seeing this title here and there but didn't know much about the content. Sounds exactly like my type of read. Thanks, Kerry!

  4. It's really well done, and Gay is an amazing writer. Even when I didn't agree with her opinions 100%, it was hard not to understand why and how she came to her thoughts, which made it all the more compelling. Hope you get a chance to pick this one up and enjoy it!

  5. Ooooh good thought! I bet her narration of the essays would KICK ASS.

  6. It will. It really will. I hope you love it. Can't wait to hear what you think!

  7. I flew through this one in a matter of days and LOVED it. It is extremely rare that I ever finish a book and then want to meet or talk to an author, but I would love to sit with her and ask her questions and get her perspective on other things. It was fabulous. And me talking about the book so much while I read led to my bf saying that he kind of wants to read it too.


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