Whether she’s making you giggle as she waxes poetic about Rihanna’s terrible acting in Battleship, or she’s the reason you’re sobbing your eyes out while devouring her debut novel, An Untamed State, there’s no denying Roxane Gay is a powerful writer. And, of course, it’s no surprise that she’s an equally voracious reader. This month, she’s chatting with Book of the Month, a literary monthly subscription box delivering newly released books to its members, about the new reads she’s enjoying, her fascination with Kim Kardashian, balancing her social media presence and more.
Book of the Month: You tweet about the Kardashians a lot. What about them fascinates you?
Roxane Gay: My interest in the Kardashians is fairly new. Ever since Blac Chyna infiltrated the dynasty and flipped the script on how the family operates and uses the media, I’ve just wanted to know more. It’s also intriguing to see how people who are famous for being famous make that work in the longer term. Everything about them is consumeristic and aspirational. I cannot look away.
BOTM: We’re featuring Shrill by Lindy West, who is a big fan of yours. Any advice for your Book of the Month contemporary, who, like you, deals with internet trolls on a daily basis?
RG: I am pretty sure Lindy West could teach me and everyone else who has an online presence a thing or two about trolls. She is masterful in dealing with online harassment.
BOTM: In Bad Feminist you talk about Vanessa Williams being an early role model for you. Who’s your current role model?
RG: I have a lot of admiration for Zadie Smith, as of late. (Photo via Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty)
BOTM: You also talk about Sweet Valley High and your disappointment with the “10 Years Later” refresh. How do you feel about pop culture reboots like The Full House remake?
RG: These reboots are generally trying to capitalize on nostalgia. If they are well done, I’m all for it, but they are rarely well done. Also, I wasn’t disappointed with the Sweet Valley Confidential refresh! I loved it for the trash it was.
BOTM: You’ve said that you’re shy but also have this huge social media following and are on a very public platform now. How do you reconcile the shyness with this public persona you now have?
RG: It is very easy to be the boldest version of myself online because there is a safety in that remove. I am the same person online as offline, but it is far less awkward for me to engage with other people online because it only requires words. I am a writer. I know how to use words. In person, I don’t know; it’s just more challenging.
BOTM: Your new book is coming out — Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body — in which you discuss your relationship with food and your body, as well as the larger cultural conversation around body image. Why did you feel compelled to write this book? What do you want readers to get out of it?
RG: I wrote Hunger because I was thinking about my body and how my body became big, and I wanted to write about that, the why of my body as well as the experience of having an unruly body in a culture that pretty much demands that we discipline our bodies to conform to certain, narrow beauty standards.
BOTM: You’ve written an adult novel, a collection of essays and a memoir, and you have a short story collection and a Young Adult novel on the horizon. Your work encompasses so many forms and genres, even bouncing between fiction and nonfiction. What about switching between all of these avenues appeals to you? What do you get out of writing fiction versus nonfiction? What is your favorite genre or form to write?
RG: I just love to write and I am not going to ever constrain myself by thinking I can only work in one genre. The only genre I don’t write is poetry. I’m simply not good at that, and it’s fine. There’s a lot of amazing poetry out in the world that I get to enjoy. Working across different genres allows me to grow as a writer and it keeps me engaged in the work. In fiction, I get to control the world and write into that world as I see fit. In nonfiction, I get to comment on the world as it is and imagine the better place it could become. My favorite genre to write is fiction, which is and will always be my first love.
BOTM: Were you ever a Book of the Month member growing up?
RG: I was part of this book club Harlequin had where they would send you four books a month. I read a lot of romance novels.
BOTM: How does it feel to be a Book of the Month Guest Judge?
RG: It feels awesome. I love being able to talk about beautiful books, and my selection this month, The Veins of the Ocean, happens to be written by Patricia Engel, a writer I greatly enjoy.
Is The Veins of the Ocean on your book list? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know!
(Featured image via Frederick M. Brown/Getty)