Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Ayiti by Roxane Gay

Ayiti, published by Artistically Declined Press, is the debut story collection from Roxane Gay, each story concerning Haiti and its people.

The first story you arrive at announces itself with the block capitals of MOTHERFUCKERS. And wow can this small story carry a great weight. Wonderful opener.

In "Things I Know About Fairytales" the narrator says "At a dinner party once, with some of my colleagues and some of Michael's and lots of wine and music and excellent food and pretentious but engaging conversation, talk turned to Haiti. Everyone leaned forwards in their seats, earnest in their desire to be genuine in their understanding of the world. One of my colleagues mentioned a magazine article he read about how Haiti had surpassed Colombia as the kidnapping capital of the world. Another colleague told us about a recent feature in a national magazine. Soon everyone was offering up their own desperate piece of information, conjuring a place that does not exist."

I wonder if this is non-fiction as it reads so true, and I suppose I recognise that earnest desire to be genuine, and the failure of real understanding that so often accompanies it.

In "In the Manner of Water or Light" the narrator says "We are the keepers of secrets. We are secrets ourselves."

Roxane Gay may well have secrets, but she is also a fearless truth teller. Her stories work beautifully in showing us truths without screaming them. Sometimes it is that which remains unsaid that resonates strongest. Her writing is beautifully empathetic, powerful, and often painful.

In "Cheap, Fast, Filling" she makes me sympathise, despise, and then care about her character in just 3 pages. Yeah, that skilled.

And she's funny too (see "Voodoo Child" and the Primer in "There is No "E" in Zombi Which Means There Can Be No You or We" - in which she slides from amusing to disturbing ever so smoothly.)

She has an utterly distinctive voice of her own. There are many examples of her words online as she blogs, writes articles, and fictions (you can find her at I Have Become Accustomed To Rejection) and whatever she writes carries that assured, intelligent, calm, witty voice.

6 comments:

swine said...

"Motherfuckers." That's the opening salvo...that's the .88 mm gun firing above your head. For me, just this one and a half page basically makes this collection.

Sara Crowley said...

Oh fuck, yes! I love how the first story you arrive at announces itself with the block capitals of MOTHERFUCKERS. And despite being such a small story it can carry such a great weight. I did mean to put that in my review, in fact, I think I'll nip back and do that now.

Thanks for your comment.

Roxane Gay said...

Thanks for talking about my book, Sara, and for what you said. I do try to write everything like it's truth and there is truth in everything I write, whether those truths belong to me or others.

Glad to know you enjoyed the book.

Tania Hershman said...

I just got my copy so won't read the whole of your blog post - I can't wait to read the stories!

Sara Crowley said...

Roxane, yes, that kernel of truth, be it your truth or that of another, is the soul of your writing, in my opinion.

Tania, you are going to love it.

Rachel Fenton said...

Right then, got to get this...

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