Bad Feminist: Essays

Don't let the title fool you. Roxane Gay--cultural critic, blogger, and author of Ayiti and An Untamed State--isn't a bad feminist. She's outspoken, persuasive and incisive, and in her essay collection Bad Feminist, she proves that feminism can exist among a variety of apparent contradictions, be they loving the color pink or dancing to a filthy rap song.

The collection is a perfect entrée into the world of feminism for those whose politics or predilections might have initially made them wary of the term. Gay writes fearlessly, calling foul on anyone whose superficial concept of a feminist entails an angry wench with hairy armpits. She empowers her readers to be any kind of feminist they choose, even a "bad" one, confessing her own uneasy ardor for the ultra-girly Sweet Valley High books and melodramatic reality TV. Unlike many cultural critics, Gay doesn't pretend to have all the answers; her greatest strength here is her insistence on raising questions, even those she can't resolve in the course of an essay. She tackles disparate, sometimes controversial subjects like Trayvon Martin's killing or the racial implications of the film Django Unchained with empathy and openness, interweaving her own experiences with larger cultural observations.

As a volume, these essays aren't entirely cohesive. Sometimes it's obvious that they were pulled from disparate corners of the Internet, packaged together with the most convenient theme. Still, the book is powerful, and its winsomeness is due entirely to Gay's fearless, inclusive and accessible prose. --Linnie Greene, freelance writer and bookseller at Flyleaf Books

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