Difficult Women – Book Review

Roxane Gay’s title, Difficult Women, speaks to any woman who has felt difficult to love.  I had long since owned that title and studied the qualities that made me “difficult” in relationships.  I had searched tirelessly to identify the conditions to which I might attribute this unfortunate state of affairs.  So when my sister, the day before her wedding, gifted me this book and began to explain her intention, maybe for fear that I would feel labeled or defensive, I waved her off.  Thank you!  I told her.  I love it already.  Gay’s writing pulled me in from the very first paragraph.  Her voice captures all the ways women might be considered difficult in intimate relationships yet at the same time looks deeper at who they are and why.  We come out of this reading experience so much richer for having explored these stories with her.  They are fiction – products of Gay’s imagination.  But for me, each is a window into a rich and ornate chamber of its author’s mind.  This book leaves me so much richer, with a stronger sense of how a woman might be loved well, even if temporarily.  It leaves me with a broader vision of how a woman can allow her difficult self to be loved and why that might add value to her life.  It leaves me with a clearer personal understanding of the complexity of myself, love and relationship and the natural grit and beauty of coupling in its infinite forms.

And I feel a little less difficult after having read this book.


Other books by Roxane Gay I plan to read:

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body

An Untamed State

Bad Feminist


& several comic books in Marvel’s Black Panther: World of Wakanda series


“I vigorously encourage women and people of color to be ambitious, to want and work for every damn thing they can dream of. We’re allowed to want, nakedly, as long as we’re willing to put in the proverbial work….I am ambitious because I love what I do, not simply for ambition’s sake. Ambition is what allows me to take creative risks and try things I never thought I could do. Ambition makes me a better thinker and writer. Ambition makes me.”                       — Roxane Gay


I just discovered my new favorite author of all time.  She’s Geneen Roth.  The book is When Food Is Love: Exploring the Relationship Between Eating and Intimacy.  Here is a little taste of what you will find in this must-read book:

“The wonderful thing about food is that it doesn’t leave, talk back, or have a mind of its own.  The difficult thing about people is that they do.”

“Eating is a metaphor for the way we live; it is also a metaphor for the way we love.  Excessive fantasizing, creating drama, the need to be in control, and wanting what is forbidden are behaviors that block us from finding joy in food or relationships.  And some of the same guidelines that enable us to break free from compulsive behavior–learning to stay in the present, beginning to value ourselves now, giving the hungry child within us a voice, trusting our physical and emotional hungers, and teaching ourselves to receive pleasure–enable us to be intimate with another person.”

“It is my belief that we become compulsive because of wounds from our past and the decisions we made at that time about our self-worth–decisions about our capacity to love and whether, in fact, we deserve to be loved.  Our mother goes away and we decide that we are unlovable.  Our father is emotionally distant and we decide that we need too much.  Someone we are close to dies and we decide that there is no reason to love anyone because it hurts too much at the end.  We make decisions based on our pain and the limited choices we had at the time.  We make decisions based on how we made sense of the wounds and what we did to protect ourselves from being more wounded in that environment.  At the age of six or eleven or fifteen, we decide that love hurts and that we are unworthy or unlovable or too demanding, and we live the rest of our lives protecting ourselves from being hurt again.  And there is no better protection than wrapping ourselves around a compulsion.”

“For those of us who are used to waiting for someone to bring love to our lives, the discovery that being intimate is a choice that we make at every moment is as close to magic as anyone ever comes.”

“We become frightened of intimacy because our intimate experiences were frightening, not because we are incapable of loving.  If we are ever to deeply love ourselves–or anyone else–we must first examine why we are frightened.  We must go back to the beginning, re experience (or perhaps allow ourselves to feel for the first time, since when those feelings first arose, we pushed them away) the rage, hurt, fear, betrayal, loss of what it was like to be a child we were, a child in our family of origin.”

“I am in the process of taking my childhood room apart.  And with each feeling I touch, cry about, and put away, each memory of fear, each experience of loss, the walls are crumbling.  And I am setting myself free.”

To read more, get yourself a copy, or read my notes at:  When Food Is Love