Roxane Gay

On this date in 1974, feminist writer and professor Roxane Gay was born in Omaha, Nebraska to Haitian immigrants. Her father was a civil engineer whose career meant that the family moved often. She has described spending much of her time reading and writing, and she 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 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 nonprofit 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 published Ayiti, a short story collection. In 2014 she published the novel An Untamed State and The New York Times best-seller 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 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.

SLOWKING photo: Gay in 2014. GNU Free Documentation License 1.2

"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."

—Gay, quoted in The Guardian, "Indiana is not protecting religious freedom but outright zealotry" (March 27, 2015)

Compiled by Dayna Long

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