Roxane Gay

On this date in 1974, feminist writer and professor Roxane Gay was born in Nebraska. Her parents were both Haitian immigrants. Her father was a civil engineer whose career meant that the family moved often. Gay, who was the oldest of three, has expressed in her essays and in her book “Bad Feminist” that when young, she felt like an outsider in schools. This feeling was compounded by the expectations of her fairly strict parents. She has described spending much of her time reading and writing, and fell in love with literature at an early age. She attended Yale for a year but left at 19, finishing her undergraduate degree in Nebraska, near her family. She earned a doctorate degree in rhetoric and technical communication from Michigan Technological University.


Gay founded the Illinois-based independent publisher, Tiny Hardcore Press, is a contributing editor for Bluestem Magazine, and a co-editor for PANK, a non-profit literary arts collective. She has written for Salon, Jezebel, the American Prospect, and the Rumpus. Her short stories have been featured in numerous collections, including “Best American Short Stories 2012,” and “Best American Mystery Stories 2014.” In 2011, she released her first book “Ayiti,” a short story collection. In 2014, she published the novel “An Untamed State” and The New York Times bestseller “Bad Feminist,” a collection of essays about feminism, race, gender, and pop culture. Time Magazine declared 2014 “the year of Roxane Gay.” She is a nationally ranked scrabble player and is currently a professor of English at Purdue University. Though Gay describes her younger self as “a good girl who went to church,” she no longer believes in God.

"I try to understand faith and religion. I was raised by wonderful Catholic parents who were deeply faithful and taught us that God is a God of love. Even though I am lapsed, I respect that others turn to God and religion for guidance, for solace, for salvation. What I cannot respect is when that faith dictates how others should live their lives. I cannot respect when such faith tells some people that their lives are unworthy of dignity."

—March 27, 2015, The Guardian, "Indiana is not protecting religious freedom but ouright zealotry"

Compiled by Dayna Long

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