An Untamed State: The Opening Chapters from Roxane Gay’s New Novel

Roxane Gay’s new novel, An Untamed State, is out this week, and we’re excited to present the opening chapters with the Longreads community. Our thanks to Gay and Grove Atlantic for sharing it here.

Author: Roxane Gay
Source: Longreads
Published: May 8, 2014
Length: 10 minutes (2,742 words)

Interview with My Mom, One Who Stayed Home

After reading the New York Times Magazine story on women who “opted out,” Gay asks her mom about her own experience:

Sometimes when people talk about women and the workforce, they say a woman cannot truly be equal to a man unless she has her own income. What do you think?

“Well. Equality. What a word. When we choose go outside in the world, when we come home, we’re still mommy. The second shift starts. Equality doesn’t exist, period, even when you share the chores. Some days it can be 70/30 and other days it is 30/70. I don’t think that’s what we should be fighting for.

What should we be fighting for?

“Men participating more in the home, but it’s petty to say 50/50, because life doesn’t allow that.”

Author: Roxane Gay
Source: The Hairpin
Published: Aug 13, 2013
Length: 10 minutes (2,650 words)

Break All the Way Down

[Fiction] A baby’s arrival stirs up difficult memories:

“I sat with the baby in the living room, setting her on a clean blanket. When I tired of watching her, I stretched out, resting my hand on her stomach. I fell asleep with the baby staring at me, her eyes wide open.

“In the morning, my boyfriend kicked my foot with his heavy work boot. ‘What the fuck is this?’

“I sat up quickly, holding a finger to my lips. I stood and pulled him into the bedroom. ‘Anna Lisa brought the baby last night. She can’t take care of her anymore.'”

Author: Roxane Gay
Source: Joyland
Published: May 26, 2012
Length: 24 minutes (6,184 words)

Gravity at the End of the World

[Fiction] Two couples, living in a “Yooper town,” dreaming of a better life:

“Craig is sweet and smarter than he or anyone else gives him credit for. After a long day of work, he smells like sweat and sap. He likes to read Decadent literature, especially Oscar Wilde. I’m the only one who knows that. He doesn’t hate himself for being a Yooper boy dating a Yooper girl working a Yooper trade. We’ve been together for eleven years, since we were sophomores in high school. We had a baby once, a little girl named Emma. She had his eyes and his dimples and my smile and my temper. She died when she was four and a half—got sicker than we knew was possible and needed the kind of help people like us can never afford. Craig asks me to marry him every month or so but I don’t know how to say yes in a world where our child isn’t alive. I don’t know how to say no either. I tell him soon.”

Author: Roxane Gay
Source: Knee-Jerk
Published: Jan 1, 2009
Length: 9 minutes (2,419 words)

The Careless Language of Sexual Violence

We live in a culture that is very permissive where rape is concerned. While there are certainly many people who understand rape and the damage of rape, we also live in a time that necessitates the phrase “rape culture.” This phrase denotes a culture where we are inundated, in different ways, by the idea that male aggression and violence toward women is acceptable and often inevitable.

Author: Roxane Gay
Source: The Rumpus
Published: Mar 10, 2011
Length: 10 minutes (2,581 words)