Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Roxane Gay in DC

With DC's MLK library under construction, some of the larger library events have been roaming around.  In a site that was perfect for me, Roxane Gay spoke about her new book Hunger with WAMU's Alicia Montgomery at All Souls Unitarian Church, aka on my street.  (Okay fine it was like six blocks away.  Still my street!) The space was packed, and well, you may or may not know the church dates to 1913, so there are fans in the seats in the sanctuary.  All of this to say is was a little toasty and there was a persistent hissing sound that may have been due to the ancient boiler system or the sound system, but in the end it was still a great evening and I for one hope for more events that are so convenient to me.  
Montgomery noted that Gay had taken an ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer approach for this book, and asked her to recount the most stupid question she had gotten so far.  Gay was asked to describe her body for an interviewer.  She declined to do so.  
Gay talked a lot about the processing of trauma, and how differently we treat self medication when it happens with drugs and alcohol rather than with food, but also noted that food is still different because you have to eat and that it changes even going to the doctor for headaches or what have you.  She mentioned being on a panel about fatness with several other authors and having a woman come up to the mike during the Q&A and say she was an OBGYN who was afraid to treat fat women and asked how to get better.  Gay's answer, get over yourself. 
Montgomery noted that Gay had referenced a loss in the book, in a way that implied that it was the loss of a child.  Gay talked further, confirming she had been pregnant, and then had lost the child far enough into the pregnancy that it felt more like a stillbirth, and that the doctor had told her her weight had caused it and while she knows better now, it was hard to get past that.  
There were a number of audience questions, and they were great.  A lot of people asked about writing advice.  Gay mentioned that she felt voice was something you find as you write more, and the affectations you picked up from others fall away.  It doesn't descend from on high, it something you find by doing.  She also talked about the need to be relentless in publishing, which is a patriarchial, looks focused, racist business.  
She had made several references to spending more time in LA of late, and one audience member asked if there had been any more movement with any of her stuff that had been optioned and Gay did mention that she was writing a pilot for Amazon called "Grown Women", much as she had said she wanted to in Bad Feminist.  There was also some discussion of "The Bachelorette", and Gay said that it's always a weird thing. It's great that there's a black bachelorette.  But being the first black anything, here Rachel is, she's accomplished, she's an attorney, and these are the dudes they have brought her?  
As I said, it was a great evening, made even better by running into folks I knew in the audience.