The feminine complex

Difficult Women

Roxane Gay (An Untamed State: A Novel and Bad Feminist: Essays) knows a thing or two about difficult women, which makes her new collection of short stories very aptly titled. In Difficult Women (Grove Press, $25), we get the scoop from the perspective of women who may not be easygoing—and they’re certainly not “ladies” in any sense of the word. Instead, we have a professor of materials engineering who finds herself not only the sole woman on faculty, but the sole African-American; she finds an unapologetic place for herself on her own terms. Then, there’s the opening tale of survival and love, “I Will Follow You,” in which two sisters, abducted and raped as children, find their way forward together. The dangers for these women are real, but they are about as far from cowering as it is possible to get.