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Author Roxane Gay speaks to packed audience

Roxanne GayEmerson’s Writing, Literature and Publishing Department’s Reading Series welcomed a very high-profile guest to the Cabaret of the Little Building on March 19. Writer Roxane Gay visited campus for a question-and-answer session with students followed by a reading of some of her essays.

Gay has written for a host of publications including Salon, New York Times, Best American Short Stories, and Guardian. In addition, she has two books of her own: Bad Feminist, a collection of essays, and a novel, An Untamed State.

Gay’s work proved to be quite popular with Emersonians. Every seat in the Cabaret was taken, and some attendees resorted to sitting on the floor or standing in the back. Lots of students clutched their copies of her books, which she would sign for each of them later, and came equipped with plenty of questions.

Some asked for how they could become successful writers. Gay’s response was simple.

“You have to work really, really hard,” she said. “I send a lot of [pieces] out that are rejected, and if one keeps getting sent back, I reassess it.” 

Gay also answered questions about feminism and how students could talk about the subject with their peers. 

“People think [feminism] is a bad word. It’s not,” she said, adding that those who do not claim to identify with the word have a “fear of being on the outside.”

“You will still be a part of this world if you claim feminism,” she said. 

Despite the seriousness behind some of the subjects about which she writes, Gay and the attendees found time for humor. Gay expressed her strong love for The Hunger Games series and made known her devotion to “Team Peeta.” She also read “Typical First Year Professor,” a story from Bad Feminist, which hilariously details her experiences during her first year as a professor at Eastern Illinois University, and “Adventures with the UPS Man,” a declaration of affection for the man who brings her packages to her door.

Roxanne Gay

Author Roxanne Gay reads and discusses her essays to a packed audience of students, faculty, and staff at the Cabaret in the Little Building on March 19. (Photo by Tessa Roy '16)

When seriousness reemerged, Gay shared some of her motivations behind her writing and expressed hopes for what it will do for other women.

“I doubt myself all the time, every day,” she said. “But I hope that if I write, maybe there will be a girl out there someday who doesn’t doubt herself.”

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