Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Difficult Women” as Want to Read:
Difficult Women
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Difficult Women

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  24,762 ratings  ·  3,187 reviews
A national bestseller from the "prolific and exceptionally insightful" (Globe and Mail) Roxane Gay, Difficult Women is a collection of stories of rare force that paints a wry, beautiful, haunting vision of modern America.

Difficult Women tells of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection. The women in these stories live lives of privilege a
Paperback, 306 pages
Published November 14th 2017 by Grove Press (first published January 3rd 2017)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Difficult Women, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Francesca Edwards The stories about child rape stem from her own experience of being gang-raped at age 12. Of course it is uncomfortable to read about such things, but …moreThe stories about child rape stem from her own experience of being gang-raped at age 12. Of course it is uncomfortable to read about such things, but it is necessary for these voices to be heard. (less)
Kerri Davis I like to think this is about mental illness and the fragility of the glass woman represents someone suffering with a mental illness and the stoner th…moreI like to think this is about mental illness and the fragility of the glass woman represents someone suffering with a mental illness and the stoner thrower a loved one. It is difficult being in love with someone suffering from depression etc as the smallest trigger can crack them and send them spiralling. The stone thrower clearly and deeply loves the glass woman but is constantly worrying about her shattering. He ends up having an affair with someone "..he does not have to see too much or love too carefully." This story for me highlights the difficulty of living and loving someone who is mentally ill and can "shatter" as well as being someone who is mentally ill and can see the impact they make on their loved ones. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  24,762 ratings  ·  3,187 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Difficult Women

Difficult Women could have easily been titled Sad Women or Sad Women Having Sex. No, no, no, not every woman is sad, and not every single story is about sex, but that’s the impression it left me. Don’t fret—it’s not too graphic and it’s not porn, it’s just there.

I’d love to hear why Gay titled the book Difficult Women. When I think of difficult women, I think of women who are generally a pain, who are sassy, who rock the boat. But here, these women have had their boats rocked. They have difficu
Elyse  Walters
Anyone who does not know who *Roxane Gay* has been living under a rock for too long! She's a phenomenal talented inspiring woman.
Roxanne has brought tears to my eyes more than once. She's a feminist who turned to books as a child when her family moved several times and struggled to make friends. She began writing essays as a teenager-- and her work today is greatly influenced by a sexual assault she experienced at age 12.
From the first time -last June - when I had the honor to hear her speak -
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Stars!

My reviews can also be seen at: https://deesradreadsandreviews.wordpr...

Roxane Gay is one talented writer. I'm not usually one for short-stories but I really enjoyed this collection. Many of the stories first appeared in publications such as Best American Mystery Stories, American Short Fiction, The Minnesota Review, Best American Short Stories and many others.

"a collection of stories of rare force and beauty, of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connecti
my becoming-a-genius project, part 12.5!

here is the accursed lowdown:
i have decided to become a genius.

to accomplish this, i'm going to work my way through the collected stories of various authors, reading + reviewing 1 story every day (in this case 2 a day - i'm allowed to break the rule because i made them) until i get bored / lose every single follower / am struck down by a vengeful deity.

this is 12.5 (and not 13) because this project is allegedly one in which i read the COLLECTED STORIES of
Yesterday Goodreads ran a question and answer session with author Roxane Gay in anticipation of the release of her memoir Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. I felt that Gay delivered poignant responses as she voiced what it means for her to be a feminist as we move forward through the 21st century. Next month, a group I belong to, Literary Fiction by People of Color, has selected Gay's Difficult Women as its monthly read. With Gay being a popular author as she continues to churn out novels and story ...more
This. This is the reason why I started reading more short story collections. I knew there must be brilliant books that I would miss otherwise. This collection is absolutely incredible and it might very well end up being my favourite book of 2016 (and I read some really great books this year).

There is not a single bad story in this collection and some were among the best things I have ever read. The collection is aptly named "Difficult Women" - women and their experiences are at the centre of thi
Larry H
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd give this 4.5 stars.

This is a crazy-good collection, filled with stories that are sometimes quirky, sometimes moving, sometimes ribald, sometimes funny, but nearly always utterly compelling. There are 21 stories in this collection—some last little more than a page, while some are much longer, but there is a real power in Roxane Gay's storytelling, whether the stories have an almost frenzied pace or proceed in a slower, more contemplative fashion.

While the title of this collection is Diffi
Nov 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anything with Roxane Gay’s name on it is guaranteed to pique my interest.

Difficult Women is a collection of short stories that cover a wide range of modern women, from a woman pretending not to realize when her husband switches places with his twin brother to a stripper putting herself through college and fending off an obsessed customer.

And a number of the stories had me just floored by the raw emotion and chilling writing.

Here are a few of my favorites pieces:

I Will Follow You:

A fantastic
Emily May
Aug 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A stunning collection of hard-hitting, discomfiting stories about women. In all their forms.

Many of the stories here pack a severe emotional punch, or challenge you to think, or disgust you. But what is evident throughout is that Gay is an amazing writer. For someone like me who generally prefers characters, plot, atmosphere and most things over the words themselves, it was astounding to be so floored by the author's command of language. She wields sentences as weapons and uses them to break you
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
3.5 stars. Ouch... Maybe it's the mood I'm in, but at times Difficult Women felt almost too harsh and painful for me to keep reading -- I had to temper its effects by breaking up my reading with a few chapters from a book about the Berlin Wall of all things. Difficult Women is a collection of short stories. Some are very short -- vignettes really -- and others are longer. Some flirt with surrealism, but most are anchored in a very dark reality. They almost all focus on women in nasty situations ...more
Monita Mohan
True confession - I haven't read any Roxane Gay, but I have heard a lot about her work. It's not like I've avoided her writing, just haven't had access to it. So when Netgalley had her latest collection 'Difficult Women' up for grabs, I grabbed with both hands.

Admittedly, between reading the blurb of the book and reading the actual book, several months went by, so the first of the stories was not what I expected, and neither were the rest. The collection didn't quite fit the book's title of Dif
Roxane Gay slays what she needs to slay with this riveting, hard-hitting short story collection about difficult women and the dangerous situations they face. As Gay has discussed in interviews, society often puts women in positions where they must fight and act "difficult" to survive - to fend off a leery coworker, to break free from an abusive boyfriend, to feel understood as a woman of color in a town filled with whiteness. This collection contains challenging topics, such as sexual assault, r ...more
Twenty-one short stories about flawed, complex individuals who might typically be reduced to dismissive categories. I can't say I enjoyed reading Difficult Women, but I'm glad I read it. One of the many things that Gay excelled at was creating fully-formed characters and relationships in just a few pages. I felt like I intimately knew each character, even though some of the stories were very short. We're introduced to a variety of women: jaded women, women who don't think they deserve love, wome ...more
“For difficult women, who should be celebrated for their very nature.”

Roxane Gay's introduction.

I really liked the first stories – the writing, the characters, the situations. But as it went on, too many of the women (and the men and occasional friends) were like replicas of each other. Whether wealthy or dirt poor, they were difficult for those around them.

I also had the feeling that almost all the women seemed to be defined by the men in their lives. In some cases, they were men they had l
Broken Women
Lost Women
Troubled Women
Abused Women

Many titles come to mind to describe these stories; difficult is not one of them. And I guess because I was expecting a different interpretation of difficult - though, admittedly with Bad Feminist lingering in the back of my mind - this book caught me off guard. Had I picked up this book with An Untamed State frame of mind, I would've been on target.

My primary issue with the book is that nearly all of these women deal with their issues the same wa
Diane S ☔
There is no question that this author can write and write well, and that I am the outlier so far in many reviews. These stories were grim, women placed in difficult situations, women treated with little kindness, many seemed to just accept their lives would be like this. Hopelessness, despair, women in many different situations, many occupations. Some were more fantastical and I found these a welcome relief. These may be realistic, thankfully I don't know, maybe these are true depictions of some ...more
Book Riot Community
You can’t just use words like “great” or “amazing” to describe this story collection. I settled on astonishing, arresting, and staggering. It requires language that pinpoints at least a little the ways that Difficult Women will wreck you. You will be wrecked, but you will also feel affirmed and seen and known. That may sound like a contradiction, but that is what Difficult Women is all about. The contradictions of existing as a woman in the world. The contradictions of sex, love, and connection. ...more
Elle (ellexamines)
Okay, first of all: I love Roxane Gay. I've actually never read anything by her before, but I saw her speak at my local bookstore recently and absolutely loved it. She was one of the funniest speakers we've ever had, I think. I also love that she's a famous feminist who isn't a skinny straight white woman. Nothing against skinny straight white woman; it's just great to see famous feminists who have different marginalized identities, too.

Unfortunately, as much as I respect her, I'm not sure how
Jessica Jeffers
Roxane Gay can fucking WRITE. Even though the stories can be phenomenally uncomfortable in their subject matter, the precision of her language and the wonder of her story construction leave me in awe.
Mar 18, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to El by: The F-Word
I had an opportunity to see Roxane Gay do a few readings from this collection of short stories a couple of weeks ago. I had wanted to go into that event having read more than just her book of essays, Bad Feminist, but it didn't work out. Instead, I had a chance to hear Gay read a few excerpts and stories from this collection in her own voice. And I liked that.

When I got this collection from the library, I expected to enjoy the stories just as much by reading them. I still rather enjoyed the exce
Rachel León
Hot damn, I get to be the first to review a book—and not just any book, but Roxane Gay’s short story collection! *throws confetti*

[clears throat]

Thanks to Netgalley I was able to read Roxane Gay's forthcoming short story collection, Difficult Women, in exchange for an honest review.

I’m giving this one five stars. It’s probably technically 4.5 stars, but I’m rounding up because I absolutely love Roxane Gay and some of the stories deserve more than 5 stars.

I feel like a broken record every time I
I don't generally read feminist writing and I've never read anything by Roxane Gay before. However, I once heard her speak as part of a TV panel discussion and she was such an erudite, smart and interesting speaker that I was drawn to read this book of her short stories.
The women in her stories are not so much 'difficult' but real and tough and sometimes tender and loving. Many of them have difficult lives or difficult starts to life and have had to endure or overcome poverty, abuse and even ab
Apr 30, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Hate is a strong word but I truly hated this collection of stories. I say collection of stories but that is not quite accurate as that would suggest that there was some discernible difference between them when there really isn't. It is a lazy piece of work - and I agree with another review that says the high rating is due to women feeling they cannot knock the sisterhood and maybe that's the explanation. Gay just knew she could write any old crap and get away with it.
My main issue is that every
Louise Wilson
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Difficult women is a collection of stories. The women in these stories live lives of privilege and poverty. In marriages that are loving and haunted. Where neighbours conform, compete and spy on each other.

Not usually my preference for reading but it's good to try something different and I'm glad I did.

I would like to thank NetGalley, Grove Atlantic and the author Roxane Gay for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest

Reviewing anticipated works like these is always difficult, especially if you're reviewing the book before it's been officially published. I'm not sure about others, but I always feel a tremendous amount of pressure - I want to give my honest opinion, but I also want to be as objective as possible and explain, more broadly, what the book is about and who the audience is.

I'd heard stellar things about Roxane Gay's BAD FEMINIST. It's been
I just don't think Roxane Gay is a natural short story writer. Love her non-fiction, but these are mostly not good, at least those that I've read. A good short story is layered. These ones are too straight-forward in writing and themes. ...more
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
** for the stories.
***** for the writing.

'Difficult Women' – difficult stories; difficult reading experience about flawed women, crappy men and messed up lives. With 'Difficult Women', you have a collection of 21 unique short stories, told in explicit, but skillful fashion. Character driven; women taking lead roles (mostly) in graphic narratives that evokes feelings of loss, emptiness, loneliness, depression, outrage, identity, bonds, eccentricities, to name several.

A lot of the stories told in
Clumsy Storyteller
i know i know. it took me forever to finish this book, i was on vacation and couldn't read much. Anyway. Difficult women was an original work. i have never read anything like this, such beautiful stories, heartbreaking at times. I loved it, and had a great time reading it. Most of these stories were about wives and mothers. stories I couldn't relate to, i'm not married nor am I a mother, still I found the stories very captivating and challenging. Roxane Gay is smart and brave to write about topi ...more
Occasionally, I've been called "difficult". By both women and men. So this book appealed to me, as I thought I'd find out if my "difficultness" is similar to other women folk out there.

I was aware of Roxane Gay, but besides reading some of her articles and blog entries many years ago, I never read any of her books. So, I'm glad that the situation has been rectified.

I enjoyed this book overall, although, as it's the case with short story collections, I liked some more than others. I didn't care a
Marilyn C.
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
Difficult Women was dark, sad and shocking to read at times. Roxane Gay has written with complete honesty as she looks into women's lives, maybe not the "ordinary" day to day lives of women, but the deep undercurrent of women's lives where there might be pain, sorrow, regret or deep longings of things in the past. Do not read this if you looking for an uplifting read, as it’s more of a book that will throw hard truths in your face. I may not have enjoyed every story in this book, however, I fell ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Bakersfield/Kern ...: Gay husband 1 2 Mar 29, 2020 05:18PM  
Lit Chicks Podcast: Difficult Women 2 4 May 22, 2018 09:24AM  
Literary Fiction ...: Discussion: Difficult Women 81 196 Sep 08, 2017 07:01AM  
Spines and Vines : May 2017 - Difficult Women 9 24 May 24, 2017 12:42PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Here Comes the Sun
  • The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love
  • Her Body and Other Parties
  • In the Dream House
  • Wow, No Thank You.: Essays
  • The Office of Historical Corrections
  • The Big Book of Modern Fantasy
  • Luster
  • Thick: And Other Essays
  • We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.
  • Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot
  • Men Explain Things to Me
  • Una vez caminé sobre la suave hierba
  • Transcendent Kingdom
  • Detransition, Baby
  • The Vanishing Half
  • Girl, Woman, Other
  • Meaty
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Roxane Gay’s writing appears in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many others. She is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. She is the author of the books Ayiti, An Untamed State, the New York Times bestselling Ba ...more

Articles featuring this book

This Bad Feminist author is best known for her essays and columns. Now she's back with Difficult Women, a collection of short stories. She talks to...
44 likes · 8 comments
“She was smart enough to want more but tired enough to accept the way things were.” 29 likes
“What a Crazy Woman Thinks About While Walking Down the Street She tries to walk not too fast and not too slow. She doesn’t want to attract any attention. She pretends she doesn’t hear the whistles and catcalls and lewd comments. Sometimes she forgets and leaves her house in a skirt or a tank top because it’s a warm day and she wants to feel warm air on her bare skin. Before long, she remembers. She keeps her keys in her hand, three of them held between her fingers, like a dull claw. She makes eye contact only when necessary and if a man should catch her eye, she juts her chin forward, makes sure the line of her jaw is strong. When she leaves work or the bar late, she calls a car service and when the car pulls up to her building, she quickly scans the street to make sure it’s safe to walk the short distance from the curb to the door. She once told a boyfriend about these considerations and he said, “You are completely out of your mind.” She told a new friend at work and she said, “Honey, you’re not crazy. You’re a woman.” 20 likes
More quotes…