Verdict: Brilliant. Needed.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Published my HarperPerennial, May 1st, 2018
Genre: Non-Fiction, Essay Anthology, Political Non-Fiction
In this valuable and revealing anthology, cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay collects original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women have to measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are “routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, bullied” for speaking out. Contributions include essays from established and up-and-coming writers, performers, and critics, including actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union and writers Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, and Claire Schwartz. Covering a wide range of topics and experiences, from an exploration of the rape epidemic embedded in the refugee crisis to first-person accounts of child molestation, this collection is often deeply personal and is always unflinchingly honest. Like Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, Not That Bad will resonate with every reader, saying “something in totality that we cannot say alone.”
Searing and heartbreakingly candid, this provocative collection both reflects the world we live in and offers a call to arms insisting that “not that bad” must no longer be good enough.
Sometimes, when a book speaks deeply to me, I have problems putting into words what my thoughts are. This is one of those cases. Roxane Gay has built an anthology so strong, both in subject matter and in style, that I am feeling inadequate talking about it. I will try though, so bear with me while I work through my feelings.
It comes as no surprise that Roxane Gay is my hero. When this anthology arrived on my doorstep (I had preordered it months ago), I could not wait to start reading it. And I read it breathlessly, taking breaks in-between when the essays became too much, but adoring every minute of it.
The essays are not grouped together but rather all stand on their own while building a crescendo of voices. Because they are not thematically grouped together they always met me unawares. Every single voice is needed, every single voice adds something to the conversation. I have not read an anthology that I found this strong, ever. The essays are all perfectly structured and wonderfully realized. There is not a single weak essay in here but there were some that spoke to me even more than the rest did.
The anthology starts of beyond strong with Aubrey Hirsch’s Fragments and Jill Christman’s Slaughterhouse Island. Both essays different in tone and style but each beyond accomplished. My personal favourites of the book were Lyz Lenz’ All the Angry Women and Samhita Mukhopadhyay’s Knowing Better spoke to me in a way that I cannot just yet put into words; especially not in a forum that is by design public.
Do you do that thing were you need to take a break from a book but clutch it to your heart because it is so important and brilliant? I did that here, multiple times. Do read this.