Life, Writing, and Real Talk with Roxane Gay
that you love. Hello, everyone and welcome. I'm your host today, Chase Jarvis founders that you have creativelive lifelong artist photographer and your guide for the next minutes, where we have an amazing guest. Ah, I will introduce her in just a moment. In the meantime, wherever you're tuning in from whether you're watching at creative live dot com slash tv or Facebook YouTube live any of the Myriads channels that we stream to I want you to know that I can see your comments and questions. The best experience for you. Ah, is going to be a creative live dot com slash tv. That's where I see questions. First, I will see all of the questions, though, wherever you're watching um, and commenting. And I will do my best endeavour to get some of those, um, questions and comments in front of our guests. Eso please let us know where you're coming in from. We want to make sure we have ah, global, um representation and let let our guests know that, um, you're, ah here to see her from all corners o...
f the globe. And without further ado, I would like to welcome our guest Roxane Gay's writing appears in Best American Mystery Stories. 2014. Best American Short Stories 2012. Best Sex Writing. 2012. Ah, Public Space, McSweeney's 10 House, Oxford American Oxfords or Fiction, Virginia Quarterly and many, many Others. She's a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, the author of numerous books. 80 on Untamed State, The New York Times bestseller Bad Feminist, which is where I originally connected with her work. The nationally bestselling Difficult Women and Hunger. Her also New York Times bestselling memoir. Not to mention she is also the author of The World of Walking on Wauconda for Marvel Comics, which is an incredible, incredible, um, piece of work. She's several books forthcoming and is that work on all kinds of television and film projects. Please join me in a warm creativelive welcome clapping, tapping on your desk, shouting out on the Internet in whatever way you can. Please welcome Roxanne Gay. Hello. Hi, Roxanne. That is such an impressive biography across. I don't know all kinds of different media and outlets, and that is one of the reasons that I'm excited to have you on the show of the many. Um, and I just wanted to say, Welcome to our creative community here. Um, where you coming from? Today? Today I am in my house in Los Angeles, California Ice. Same time zone. I wasn't sure it's a little bit later in the afternoon that we normally record. So I thought you might be making it late in New York. But, um, I want to get straight into our program. And as I mentioned in our little precursor pre show conversation, so many of the people watching today identify as either creators or entrepreneurs. Ah, and one of the things that I have learned from devouring everything I can in your work, um, is in part your effectiveness in so many different categories of art. Ah, but I want to go back for the people who are new to your work. Or I'm also curious to hear you in your own words. Haven't heard this before. A description of your very, very early career where you, um first say, got your break in? Um, as as a writer. Wait, what was the question? What was your first break? Take us back to the beginning, where you're where you sort of start began identifying as a creator. And how did you turn that? Um, that passion, the desire to right to be heard seeing um, into a career. Can you talkto talk to us about your early early career? Well, I've always taken myself seriously as a writer, even when I was ridiculously young and just, you know, writing nonsense on. And I think that because I always took myself seriously as a writer, that allowed me to persist, especially during the early years when no one was interested in publishing my work. Um, the very first say I ever had published was an essay in a magazine called Moxie magazine and, of course, long defunct, and that I published an essay in an anthology called Does Your Mama Know About the Black lesbian Experience? And then for a few years there was nothing more that happened. I had those two sort of brief moments of success, and then it all went away on. I write both fiction and nonfiction, so I certainly kept submitting my work throughout my twenties, and my work kept getting rejected. So I started writing erotica because I just thought, Well, if these magazines are gonna keep telling me my stories have too much sex, and I will just publish them and, you know, in publications that are only interested in sex with maybe some narrative around it. And so I have an entire career that nobody really knows about, um in the erotica world. And then I started to submit the very same stories again into mainstream publications, not the stories that were published but stories in that same genre. And finally, people were starting to pay attention and eso. Then I had another sort of break. In or 2010 I published an essay in the rumpus called Three Careless Language of Sexual Violence. And it was written in response to an article in The New York Times about a young girl who was gang raped in Cleveland, Texas, and The New York Times reported this story with a focus on the poor town and how the town was suffering. And I just was furious because who cares? The girl was 11 years old. Let's worry about this child. And so I wrote this essay and then the Times actually went and re reported the story the proper way. And I've been writing nonfiction ever since, and I've always written fiction, and it was just persistence and keep just continuing to try and put my work into the public sphere with degrees of success. What's that? What was the timeline from first publication to figuring out that it wasn't going to be sustainable than going? Um, I guess not. Having a lot of breaks and then coming back out in the, um in the erotica space. What was that time Ark? I would say five years and then five years from erotica to the rumpus. So it was about 10 and 10 years altogether and then now been writing for, well, publishing for about 20 years, 2025 years. Maybe That seems like such a theme for the creators that we've had on the show. There's this the 10 classic 10 years. What a 10 year overnight success. Um, you you said something that I, um I have also heard which I wanted to get a little bit deeper on, and that is this initial success and then nothing. And talk to me about that. That is something that I experienced and some of the people that I'm close to you had that we've had on the show, but I really haven't ever sort of excavated that. And I'm wondering, Is that Ah, is that a thing? Is that a thing that most creators go through and then do they not? They get a break and then is it because they didn't capitalize on their break? They didn't do the right thing When they got the break that they did, they didn't parlay it. Like why the quiet after the initial sort of publishing? I don't know. I think it depends on, and I think it differs from one writer to the next. I know for me I did not stop submitting my work. I was relentless, and I think I still am. But some writers do have that initial success, and then the next rejection makes them think, Oh, I should give up. This is not the world for me. And I think that's why you see a lot of lulls after an initial success, because success feels really good and you start to assume that you're always going to meet with success, and some people have the temerity to persevere and some don't. And was it your You also said that you were very serious. Was it that seriousness? That commitment to the craft was commitment to making a living where you had to prove someone wrong or yourself, right? Like, where did your energy and drive come from? The seriousness was just I loved writing on a day I never thought I would make a living as a writer because I I just never thought that was a possibility, partly because I was raised by Haitian parents who believed in getting a real job as a lawyer, doctor or engineer. Haitian trifecta. And, um so I just knew that I was always going to write. But I would also always have a quote unquote real job. Um, and so when I took myself seriously, it's just that I genuinely enjoy writing. I'm not a tortured writer by any stretch of the imagination. I love it. It makes me feel good. I find it relaxing. I find it challenging. I find fund on. And so I allowed myself that creative outlet and throughout my twenties and thirties on, especially in my third parties, when I started to have more success in getting essays and short stories accepted in publications, I just wanted more of that. And I was making absolutely no money. I was not paid for probably the 1st 15 years of my career. Uh, and so it was just ambition that pushed me forward and its ambition that continues to come straight forward And where it geographically were you when you first started to break into the world had you moved to New York and got the, ah, the apartment, the the classic story, or was it something different? I was living in, uh, Lincoln, Nebraska, where I lived in Nebraska for I've lived in Nebraska for most of my life. And so I was living in Lincoln, and then I was living in Michigan's Upper Peninsula for graduate school. I was getting my PH. D. And that I was in rural Illinois, and then I was in rural Indiana on, and I was while I was at Purdue that I started to come to Los Angeles, and then I just decided Fuck it. I'm gonna live in L. A. And I'm gonna fly back to Indiana for work every Monday, and I sure did. Wow. Well, I think there's so many people. Um, and I'm seeing guests from all over the world. Come in. We're got South Africa, New York L a Some fellow l a people waving Las Vegas, Florida Uh, London. My goodness, it's midnight. London. What are you doing? Um, anyway, the whole the whole world that that is tuned in right now, I think that they find something refreshing there some clapping about your, um, not being based in New York, where I think a lot of the universe thinks of that being the literary capital, certainly of the U. S. Is that a challenge to write? You know, in that time? Not at all. There is this riel misperception that you have to live in the York to be a writer, and you don't you have to have a computer or a pencil and a piece of a piece of paper is it's just knock complicated. People want to put obstacles between them and publication because people think it's hard to get published, and it's it's not. It's hard to get published in The Paris Review, but it's not hard to get published on. And so I just knew that with a little bit of research, I was going to be able to find places to send in my work, and back then you had to put your work in an envelope and take it to the post office and mail it. And we're six months to get a response. That was generally a rejection on a little tiny slip of paper. Ah, and you had to send them the self addressed return envelope or you would not hear from them. And so these writers today, I'm just like, Listen, in my day back uphill with backwards, etcetera, etcetera, Um And so I strongly encouraged writers who do not live in New York to disabuse themselves of the fantasy that you have to live in New York. First of all, New York is expensive, and second of all, writers don't make any money. So unless you wanna be miserable of New York, just enjoy where you're at, it's gonna be fine. It's quite, I guess, heartwarming and painful the same time to know that you had to use to have to pay for your own rejection letters, essentially to be sent to you, right? Like the humiliation. It's like we're Bill Bill, You, um you send us send us your rejection letter mobility for it? Yeah. Ah, Heartbreaking. Um well, thanks for taking us back to some early career. I think there's again. Got folks from South Carolina from India. Texas, Um, Egypt just chimed in, wanting to know about your creative process. In particular, Darryl from Facebook wants to know about your research. Is it more conceptual in nature? Is it more of an internal journey May be. In order to answer Darryl's question and a handful of others, you can just walk us through what? Your creative process from ideation to execution. You know, I don't have a formal creative process, which is always upsetting for people to hear. But I just sit down and I write on and I go where the writing takes me. That said, I'm one of those writers who spends a lot of time thinking about what I want to say. So I do 90% of my composition in my head, and I just have, for whatever reason, the ability to retain what I'm thinking about and to sort of retain the drafts that I created my head, Um, so I will spend quite a lot of time thinking. I would like to say that I'm a slow thinker and a fast writer. And so once I feel like I've gotten a piece to where I want in my mind. Then I sit down and I write it out, and I generally it takes only a matter of hours, and then I'm good to go and I send it off. Um, I before I send it off, I read it out loud because I thought, that's a really great way to hear a story. Are the sentences working? Um, are my ideas coherent? Is it pleasant tier? In terms of just the sound of the sentences, I find that it's a really great way to find logical mistakes and structural mistakes and things that could be improved. And so I do that. And then I will make revisions based on sort of how a piece sounds. And then I do send it off to a publication and hope for the best in terms of research. Now that I have the time to write more slowly, I absolutely do research. Um, and I generally do way more researched and ever makes it on the page. What the research really does is inform my thinking and inform how I present my thinking. And so I like to read quite a lot around a given subject that I'm writing about so that I can feel more authority more. Yeah, words. So I can feel more authoritative when I'm writing. And, um, I like to write from a place of confidence when I am trying to tackle some of the more complicated subjects of this world. And so I do that, and these days I have a research assistant. Her name is Melissa, and she's great. She's been with me now for five years, and so in general, I tell her, I want to write an essay about HD TV. Could you please do a deep dive on why the channel began? Why they are so focused on real estate in home acquisition, etcetera, etcetera. So I give her a series of research questions, and then she goes, and she has a PhD student in geography, and so she's very curious, and she sends me way more than I ever, ever need. But in that I always find something interesting that takes my piece in an unexpected way and moves it. And I love that. That's what I love about research is that I think I know what I want to say, and I think I know what I know. And then I do all this research and realize Oh, no, I don't quite know everything you need to know. Um and so it's a nice moment of humility, And then I learned something more. But you, you having read a lot of your writing, you seem toe we've so much of your personal experience in, And how do you How do you mess those things? This external research, the revelation of new ideas throughout the process, contributions from your research assistant and yet your own fabric. What's the What are you so that together? You know, it's I generally work with by instinct. I think about what do I think the peace needs in terms of research in in terms of external thinking and what does the peace need in terms of personal experience. And I tried toe just maintain that balance because I never want to include personal information in ways that are gratuitous. If I've included personal information, there is always a really clear reason why I've done that. People often say to me, Oh my gosh, you're so open and I feel like I know you and reality is that you know what I have allowed you to know. And I have very firm boundaries over what I will not put into the world about my personal life. And I stick to those boundaries, especially the older I get on. And that's really, really useful because so many young writers, and especially women writers, queer writers, writers of color I'm writers in the disability community are expected to cannibalize themselves. And they're expected to be experts on themselves, but nothing else. And so I try to work against that as often as I can. Unfortunately, I'm at a place in my career where I can. Was that learned through experience, or what part of you was able to identify what sounds like early on he and and draw those boundaries? Um, I think I just part partly experience, but partly just instinct. And, uh, I have parents who are still alive, and so they animal close, And so I think part of it was always let me not put anything into the world that would embarrass my parents and make them unable to go to their church. That's a really great I'd line in Nebraska, no less. Well, now they don't live in the Roscoe, Florida But still, it's a really useful metric for me because I'm Haitian and Haitian families were very close and also like parents are good parents. And so I don't have any sort of deep emotional thing with them that I need to relieve myself off at the expense of our relationship. And so it really just that was early on. That was a great guideline. And now I'm 45. I don't care. I'm gonna do what I want to do. But I have a stronger sense of judgment and a stronger sense of what peace needs versus what might be self indulgent. Um, I wanna go back to your comment about your parents because you said something else earlier, which I also believe is, um, something that our audience would would benefit from hearing about it. And that is this pressure from our parents and loved ones, whether these are our parents or career counselors or piers or grand parents or whoever it is, these are people that have a strong influence on our lives, and and I think the way you said it is the Haitian trifecta. They wanted to be a doctor lawyer or what was the 3rd 1? Engineer, Engineer. And how did you? You clearly didn't I mean, Dr Ph. D. What was that? The way you check the box. How did you know that? You know, I originally when I was in college, I majored in pre med and then I moved to architecture. And then I gave up the ghost and graduated as a liberal arts major. Andi. Then I got my master's degree in creative writing because I just knew that my parents had these dreams for me. But I had to live my life and I loved writing. And even though I didn't think I was going to make a living as a writing as a writer, I certainly thought I could at least get a graduate degree. And then I got my PhD in rhetoric and technical communication. I was actually going to go work at Boeing instead of teach, and the money was very good. But at the end of the day, I just could not bring myself to work for a defense contractor. So I went into academia Um and it was My parents were happy at that point because I was happy I was doing something creative. But I also had what they consider to be a real job. And so it was a compromise of sorts. And I never regretted going to graduate school. I think everyone, if you have the opportunity to not pay for it. She got a graduate school, the opportunity to not pay for it. I was one of the people who went and paid for it and paid dearly because not December to you is a lot of, um, social coaching and and ah, my parents thought I ought to And yet I think I actually I said, there's a lot about myself, but well, gosh, I want it. I want to, um, fit in. And it doesn't occur to me outside of what you just share with your parents on all the stuff that I have read that fitting in and acceptance is not something that I've heard you talk a lot about. Specifically, I'm trying to juxtapose what you just shared with wanting to please your parents and and yet knowing that you were going to be a writer, So can you help reconcile those things for us? Um, you know, I certainly spent quite a lot of my life trying to conform myself to please others. And I didn't sell to my own detriment. And I think a lot of people do, but especially a lot of Haitian daughters. And it was I don't know how I managed Teoh. I always tried to find a way to both appease my family and be able to live with myself. And I'm a Libra. So I find I just found a way to make it work. And now that I'm much older and also established now I an arm and their teeth and God, I just make a concerted effort to recognize that I don't have to live from my parents. I don't have to live from my friends on Apple from my partner. I have to do what I want to dio. And so I do. Do you? There's a lot of folks that I come in contact with in our community, for whom this is huge. Um, Hurdle and I'm wondering if you have advice you talked about, you know, pleasing others to your own detriment. And you talked about being older, wiser? Do you have any advice that you could pass along? Because I think that is a that is a hot topic for our community. It is. You know, the best advice I can give is it's easier said than done. But you have to recognize this early as you can in your life that you're actually never gonna make anyone happy. Even if you think you are. Whatever expectations they have of you are not actually about you there about them. And so they have their own emotional hurt to dio. And if you achieve some arbitrary milestone that they want you to achieve, they're going to move the goalposts. And so it's important to just do what you want for yourself. Um, I mean, within reason, we live in a world we live in a community, and eso this idea that you can just do what you want without considering others is not what I'm saying. But I do think that you should pursue the things that make you happy and make you fulfilled. And I wish more creative people in particular would do that. We have such a damaging narrative in our culture that you can't create and succeed, and it's always people who have already created and succeeded who offer that nonsense as if they're trying to close the gate behind them. You absolutely can make a go of a creative life. You may need to have a lot of jobs, but you can do it, and you should do it if you want. And so I just encourage people to, uh, pushed forward. Would you, uh, comment on the having an extra job? I've heard you give advice that that was one of the best things for your transition. And it's also a thing that's, I think, usually swept under the carpet for most most creators, especially the ones that have been so successful as you haven't so many different disciplines. Um, and yet you had a quote day job did. Until this year, I had a day job, and having a day job allowed me to take risks. It allowed me to do what I want, how I want, because I wasn't going to have to pay my rent based on how much I got paid for writing. And so when you don't have to compromise creatively, you create better work and a day job makes that possible. Uh, and I wish more writers and creative people would just suck it up and have a goddamn day job like it's easier to create when the rent is paid, at least for me. If you want to sort of live that bohemian lifestyle and suffer, that's totally fine. But I'm way too old for that. Uh, and so I just I'm a big advocate of a day job. You have a day job until you no longer need one. And if you are lucky enough to be able to put your day job, then by all means quit your day job. Uh, and make sure you have health insurance. Well, you have it for anyone who's We had that question like food. Right on. And, um, again, more folks, um, commending you in your work, Roxanne from Bulgaria, Brazil, Newfoundland, Melbourne and Wyoming After the Wyoming, um, I would like Teoh, um, explore how on earth you've been so successful in so many different genre with writing as the core. But from, you know, essays and short stories to, um, nonfiction novels, memoirs, comic books with marvel, um, opinion columns where did you get the range? Was that always something you envisioned for yourself? And most folks are taught to focus, focus, focus, focus and stand out in your chosen field such that you maybe then can expand. So share, share what your thought process was or or your actual, um, in the flesh process was to be good at so many different things. Is that genetic? Is it gift? Is it genius? Is it work? What's the secret? Because most people are terrified of being pigeonholed. And yet I felt like developing and committing to an area of creativity is one of the best known ways to stand out. Yeah, I mean, I would say it's a little bit all of the above. You know, it seems like I do a lot of different things, but I actually don't I do one thing right story telling a story telling. I just work in a lot of different genres, and I work in a lot of different genres because very early in my writing career in my early twenties, I submitted a story to a journal. Can't even remember the name of the journal at this point, and it was a story about a black lesbian couple. Ah, in the suburbs and their little family. And the editor wrote back and he said this was an amazing story, but it just wasn't believable because it wasn't in the ghetto. And this was probably 20 years ago, so it wasn't like today, but also what he It was weird that he was like the ghetto. What are you talking about? First of all, we're looking to browse. Got let's What are you talking about? Seriously, do you even know what you're saying? And it was so racist and so breath taking that I just knew then and there that I was never going to let an editor pigeonhole me, even if it meant I wasn't going to get published. And so I pulled the story because he refused to publish it. Unless I changed the studying and I was like, I'm from West Omaha like, Thank you. Like I don't even know what you want me to do here. Uh, and I'm from the suburbs, and it just he didn't believe me, and I just refused. And so I was very versatile from that moment on, and I just knew, Okay, you don't want me to write this kind of story. I'm gonna write every kind of story, and to this day, I just any time someone gives me an opportunity in a new genre, I jumped at the chance because at a at the foundation it's just telling a story of some kind, whether it's fiction or nonfiction, whether it's comics or film, and I just love storytelling. I love developing characters and thinking about about structure and all of the craft elements that go into telling the given story. Um, and I also love how much it confounds people. Well, it's, um, I think it underscores this idea of mastery, and you talked about the focuses on writing. And then, you know, you can be genre agnostic. Think about even your earlier comp comments about erotica. Did that help you understand that you could be mobile between all these different genre, that early experience writing and something maybe where you didn't see yourself, given that you took yourself seriously as a writer? But then that was your first outlet. Was that that play a role in Document Lee? I think I discovered that I didn't have to be wedded to a specific Shauna. I could be flexible and it would be OK. I would get the creative satisfaction regardless. And so even though I took myself seriously and no one else was, it was fine because I still found a way to do what I wanted to Dio, uh, I heard you call the comment that that editor said obviously is extremely racist and we're in the middle of a pandemic. But we're also in the middle of, ah, global crisis, a crisis of racism and, um, as an ally and someone who's trying to learn from not just the murder of George Floyd, but all of the actions that are happening right now, um, you've been so eloquent on so many different channels and by channels, I don't mean tell just television channels. I mean in your podcast and which we want to get to in a second here to slay. Um, I heard you. I'd like Teoh Teoh Um get your perspective on a handful of things right now because you're so eloquent. I heard you paraphrase that in talking about racism. Your goal isn't to Minister the racist that you aimed to affect the apathetic and those who don't participate. And I'm wondering, Was that a learned experience? And if so, why and how and um, do you feel like that's been effective? Well, I expect most of my adult life and certainly most of my professional life living in really horrible rural places. They're not horrible because their rule their horrible because they're full of racist people. And so I know that they can't be beached. Nothing is going to change their minds. And even if something will change their minds, I don't have the level of grace or patients to do it. I'm not going to go talk to Racist Joe over there and try and reach him to prove that I'm fucking human. It's not gonna happen my time and my intelligence eyes more valuable than that. And so the people I'm trying to reach are the people who are like, I don't care about politics and I don't vote or I'm staying home because Bernie is not the Democratic nominee, people who are apathetic or agnostic politically, I think they can be reached because there's always a reason something happened to make them not want to participate in there. The civic world and so I'm interested in that, and I'm interested in finding ways to reinvigorate those voters. So how do we get someone who's disappointed that Bernie Sanders is not the Democratic nominee to engage in the Democratic process right now? But I, of course, don't have any easy answers, but I'm at least willing to have that conversation. But I have no interest in talking to trump voters if you voted for Trump your Racists. And I don't really want to hear any of the mental gymnastics that you do to convince yourself otherwise, Um, they're Racists and they're proud about it, and that's fine. Do you like it's free country, but I don't have to give you my mental energy, so I don't I thank you for that. Um, I watched, um, the movie 13th 3 times, and I found that it was very helpful for understanding and mostly giving me a way to help to explain it to others who may be in that apathetic category, Um, in in your work and in your commentary on the black lives matter, movement and the corrupt policing you you said something. I believe it was a paraphrase of someone else and you just spoke so powerfully about it. I'm wondering if weaken um, call on that right now and that is you can't expect a corrupt system to reform itself. Can you talk to us about that for a second? Because I think that's part of the the the, um, confrontation that's happening right now. This idea of de funding the police and so people. People get scared. They don't understand what that means. And yet it's the equivalent of asking a corrupt system to just go in and put the put the band aids in the right places and sweep the floor. And it just seems so superficial. I was I want to get your commentary on it. Yeah, you know, a lot of times when we're talking about police brutality and police corruption, people love to say it's a few bad apples, but it's not a few bad apples. And when you look at the murder of George Floyd, what was equally striking to the fact that Derek Shobin kept his knee a on Floyd's neck despite his begging for his life? For almost nine minutes, three other police officers stood there and watched and did nothing and that and they did nothing while people around them were begging them to stop this. And so that's a system that cannot be rehabilitated. In Buffalo, New York, a police officer shoved a 75 year old man who fell, started bleeding, and the rest of the unit just continued to walk by and left its old man to bleed. He went, and then his injuries were severe enough that he had to go to the hospital and spend the night on. Then, when the police officers were suspended with pay, the 57 members of that riot unit quit rather than have to face that their colleagues face consequences for something that is categorically terrible, no matter what your political affiliation is like. You look at that and you just think that's fucked up. And so again the system is corrupt. Thes people have bought into the rhetoric of blue lives matter, and so we have to start over. Uh, and people here defund the police and the here prison and police abolition, and they think that law enforcement disappears. No, but we have to rethink what law enforcement looks like. We have to demilitarize law enforcement, and so I think it's time to get radical And I'll tell you what. Before George Floyd's murder, I was very skeptical of prison and police abolition because I just stopped how? And I recognize now that it was a failure of my imagination and all of us who just get flummoxed by the idea of abolition. People also didn't understand slavery, abolition, and that was also a failure of imagination. And so I am doing right now, this is not my area of expertise, so I'm actually reading as much as I can and just trying to educate myself on what this might look like and how we can safely go up. But I think we can do it. I think that the police Cosme are harm, and then the good they do. And, uh, you know, I don't want to be afraid. Every time I get in a car and leave my house that I'm gonna get pulled over, I'm not, which is fine, but then die because the cop thinks that I'm gonna do something which I'm not. You know, it's just I shouldn't have to live like that. I shouldn't have to worry about my brother's shouldn't have to worry about my dad And so we have just started over and I hope that we can Ah, thank you. Oh, as ah eternal optimist something and having, um, seen protests. And, um, you know, there are markers across the last 30 years. Something feels different to me. I don't know what it is. Not being black or a person of color as as an ally. What is different about this? It feels different from the outside. I don't know if it feels different from where you are. I'm curious what what your perception is of the current moment. Is it? Is it different? And if so, why? I don't know yet. I think it's too soon to tell. I want to believe that it's different. But I also wanted to believe it was going to be different after the Charleston nine were murdered and I wanted to believe it was going to be different after, um, Trayvon Martin and my goal Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, nine years old, um, 12 years old and he got it from the child. So So each time these this happens, I think OK, this is going to be the tipping point, But when Tamir Rice wasn't the tipping point when a child who was playing with a toy gun minding his own little business in a park was murdered by a cop. First of all, cops are cowards because they are forever shooting unarmed black people out of fear. But if that wasn't the tipping point, nothing will be in the same way that Sandy Hook wasn't the tipping point on rethinking gun legislation. Like when upper middle class white Children are murdered like Children, Children, six and seven year olds, then no, we're never going to change in this country. So I don't know. I I'm not an optimist. I'm a realist, and I don't know. But I do see this time what's different. Corporations are at least paying lip service to the idea that black lives matter. People who are been racist are facing material consequences for their behavior. It's like the me too movement, but with consequences. And, um, white people are getting on board that white people are like this one was so horrific that even white people are like Oh, man, that that one was actually pretty bad. So I do think if there ever was an opportunity to capitalize on the sacrifice of a black person. It would be this moment. And so I really, really hope that we are on the precipice of real change. Because as a writer who engages with social just justice and who writes about the world that we live in and you'd looks at race and gender and things like that just tired of writing about black people who have been murdered in deeply unjust ways. And so I do hope that this is that moment we'll see. Thank you. Um, my optimist is coming back here to ask another question. Let's say it say we make a change in policing We as you invoked your imagination, we have. We invoke that imagination as, ah culture. As a society we have. We run some experiments some of these early cities that are ahead of the curve on on de vesting in reinvesting, um, divesting and reinvesting in the community that is beyond just the militarization of the police. Let's say we achieve some of these things, let's say, from the current standard to something that's more decentralized or community service driven. What is the next area of the public focus for anti racism. Where ought we focus? If we can see progress with the policing? Well, I mean, it has been more than just policing. We also have to look at the court system, which just proportionately punishes black people. Um, we have to release every single person who was arrested for marijuana crimes immediately. I think we have to overhaul the prison system. Until we deal with those things. Nothing else is going to matter, and it has to be done immediately. This is not something that has to be rolled out slowly. I think that private prisons must be abolished. They are corrupt, and they're predicated on locking up black people so that they can make more money. And so those were like immediate things that can be done and they can be done realistically. Um, because, yeah, we can get rid of fighting private prisons. That's an easy Well, it's nothing is easy, but that's also an easy thing to do. Then we have to look at the education system and we have to look at the fact that black Children are disproportionately, um, disciplined in the classrooms. Uh, we have to get rid of charter schools we have to separate tax bastes and in private land have to separate real estate tax from the school system. ALS. Yeah, so that funds are more evenly distributed. So, like, people in Beverly Hills basically receive a private education in their public schools because of that tax base. While people in Crenshaw, uh, have a much lower tax base and therefore their public schools are doing less with more, I mean doing that, they're having to do more with less. And so we have to just equalize the public school system. I think some of these things will begin to get at systemic problems, and it's just going to require a lot of imagination from elected officials and also from ourselves. I think a lot of us are gonna have to be made uncomfortable. I'm uncomfortable by some of these ideas, but that's because I was raised in a racist world on, and I have to sort of de colonize my thinking and we all dio speaking of de colonized the thinking and um maybe in a where do we go from here? Um, media literacy is huge. Um is a huge topic, and I think whether you look at the last election. What, you know, the platforms that were communicating on right now, the availability, that something that both gives everyone a voice. And then it's something you can pay to play to be everywhere. What what advice would you give around media literacy, if that's a huge piece of the problem that we face is a culture? And as an audience of creators and entrepreneurs who, um, I think can stand to me certainly be harmed by the media but also maybe help shape it? What? What advice would you give for media literacy? You know, I think media literacy is one of the most important skills we can teach anyone. And I think that media literacy begins in preschool in age appropriate ways where we teach to learn about the messages that they consume and adults also. But we can start with kids, Uh, because we have to understand the motivation is behind a commercial. For So, for example, right now, media literacy is at an all time important level because ah, lot of corporations are putting out nonsense commercials praising themselves and telling us that we're in this together. Uh, sorry. Chase Bank. No, we're not in this together because you want my mortgage payment. You know, we're definitely not in this together. Um, exposure. Mind My name has no connection to the Chase Bank. Just, you know, it's just really frustrating. Amazon, who refuses to pay their workers a living wage, refuses to give them personal protection equipment. Is having been all these commercials about how well they're taking care of their employees. It's just like media literacy lets us know that they're full of shit. And I really think it's important that we understand that so that we don't get taken in, Um, and we don't make assumptions about corporate entities doing good. They're not doing good. They're only concerned with protecting their bottom line. Um, and so these things matter. We have to understand the messages that we receive through film and television, even any even through books. And so I just encouraged everyone to become media literate, especially because we have a president who calls everything that he disagrees with fake news. I call fax fake news. He doesn't believe in science, and so when there's no coherent federal leadership on and we're in the middle of a pandemic, media literacy goes a really long way to making sure that we understand that it's actually not safe to go outside without protection on. And so perhaps you should do something about that. I keep seeing people just flicks like currently walking around without masks, and I'm just like, Oh my God, you guys, what are you doing? It's it's a lot and I live in a really liberal place, so, yeah, hence the question like about media literacy is it's such a huge area of both fear and opportunity. I think the fact that the media that we're experiencing right now is something that no one has training for. No, it basically appeared on us in what felt like, you know, in generational terms overnight, Um, and there's so much opportunity there for educating. Um, and it's not just the young people and, you know, creators. I think that we have a responsibility to make sure that we're creating ethical art, and it doesn't mean like you have to be a saint, like, be an asshole. Talk about terrible things, whatever. But when you're creating messages for the public, at least make sure that they're honest and they're grounded. In fact, and that they understand that the world is round. You know, these things matter, and we have that responsibility. I believe, speaking of responsibility, um, and honesty, I've heard you described as radically honest. Is that something you Would you own that, or is that a moniker that somebody stuck on you? Uh, I'm not radically honest. I'm honest. But I think people consider radical because I say I tell truths that they are uncomfortable with, Like people always called things that are they're uncomfortable with radical like, um, $15 an hour minimum wage. Oh, that's radical. That's because you don't want to pay someone $15 an hour. It's not rather it really isn't. And so I do think people call me that. I understand where it comes from, but I think it's just that I'm willing to talk about things that make people uncomfortable. Um, in your, um, Ted talk. You said a lot of truth just spoke a lot of honesty about feminism. I was deeply inspired, and the way that is just such an elegant crafting of the message, using yourself as, um as ah lens, through which you could look at being good or bad at feminism. I'm wondering if you could talk about that, Um, either through the lens of feminism or anything, your ability to put yourself in harm's way in your own story and it just it's genius. And I am trying to find out you've done in so many of the works that I've read. And that's the part where I I asked early on, like, How do you craft your own narrative? Are you starting from in here or is it starting from out there? It may be this is back to a creative process question. But, um, where does your ability or your that piece of art that you put yourself again in in the isn't the bad seat for long enough? Is it just a nem visited device? It's You're so articulate with it, and it's so well done in your Ted talk. Can you talk to us about it? Um, I mean, it's a rhetorical strategy. Um, people always think, Oh, you're so raw, which they always say about black writers. It's really aggravating. It's like, No, it's not draw. Have a PhD in communication. I made you feel that way on, and so it's a choice it is. It's definitely a rhetorical choice, Um, to get the reaction I want out of the reader. Um, so I am. I always think about Kraft and what craft choices I can make to bring about a certain response in my readers. And it's not about manipulation. It really is about persuasion. And how do I get my readers to consider my point of view? And sometimes it requires not sacrifice, but a willingness to open myself up. Ah, and I do it despite being afraid to do it. I just do it anyway. It's not bravery, It's not special. I just do it and I'm terrified at the same time. And so far it has worked on. And you know, it gets harder and harder to dio because it's easy to do when no one's reading your work on by. So that way I got to do it was, I always told myself, it doesn't matter what you put in this book literally. No one's going to read it. You write about feminism and black people like no one's gonna care. Um, and it's getting harder to maintain that delusion as I become more successful and so It's also getting harder to, um, be vulnerable on the page. But I try to do it when ah piece necessitates it. How I just tell myself this is what the piece needs and no one's going to read it. I literally still tell myself No one's gonna read it. It's No one's gonna read your New York Times bestseller. Never heard of it. Who? Uh um, So it's gonna self care. I watch your twitter feed your instagram feed. I see bacon these quests on and you're cooking photos and videos are amazing. Um, I think I just one ah fan from across the country. You should do a cookbook. It would be incredible. Um, but what do you do for self care? For burnout for other creative outlets that are not your day job. Is that something that you feel like you need? You talked earlier about writing, being joyful and relaxing, and it seems like you have so many creative, um, hobbies or engaged in all this other stuff outside of writing. And I'm curious if you could, um, help us understand. Is that intentional? Is that just, you know, part of your personality? What about this is it visit managing self care and burnout, or what is it? Um, I don't really think in terms of self care, cause I'm old, but I do think it's important and I I'm not very good at it. And I need to get better at it because I'm burnt out. But I also have a lot of obligations. So you know those obligations don't care about burn out like my parents mortgage does not care. So I have to suck it up and, like, do what needs to be done. Um, I have a lot of hobbies because I'm a Libra, and I just I'm always interested in a lot of different things, and I'm not super Woo Astra astrology, but I do believe in my sign, and I am very, very labor. I have, like five of six areas. Our house is in Libra, and so, like a liberal IBRA and debate deeply brah and baking is relaxing. I love making its precise, but it's also creative, and army is challenging at times like I'm trying to master class on which are very, very hard to make, and I have not yet mastered win, but I will on and it's just I enjoy the process of doing it, and it's OK if I fuck it up. There's nothing at stake. It's just me and my partner will eat it anyway. She doesn't care. And seeing pictures of I've seen pictures from Debbie of your chocolate chip cookies, I think those may have you may have achieved perfection. I have had mastered the chocolate chip cookie because she likes some thin and crispy. So I have, like, a secret. Is milk do that? Yeah, something we have not heard. Yes. Um, so I do that and I would love to do a cookbook. I would love to do a cookbook. Maybe someday someone will ask me to. We'll see. I'm guessing there some editors, some acquiring editors, listening or watching her will. So we'll get to a cookbook deal putting it out there in the world. I can like, uh, I mean the recipe choices. The the little blurb that's going to go with every recipe. The photos. Now it's good. Good it's gonna get. It's gonna be lots and lots of fun. Carbohydrate based things. Um, other folks that are, um, struggling right now with their art, where do you turn for your next piece for your next vision, Your next quest? You talked about being intuitive, and I'm personally fascinated with intuition. I rely on it a lot. I don't know where the trust in oneself comes from. Um, I'm wondering if you can talk to us about your intuition because it seems to be so core to your success yet it's, like, fleeting for so many. Um, well, you know, I certainly deal with creative blocks all the time. I used to not, But now I do, because I think I have so much I've over committed to so many projects. And so sometimes I'm just like I don't even know where to start art. But I read a lot. Um, I go to the theater. I do. A lot of I go to museums. I engage with art a lot and a lot of different forms. And that actually helps me find new ideas and fresh ways of thinking and fresh ways of seeing the world on. And I wish more creative people understood that you have to read as much as you, right? To be a good writer. I mean, you may not do that whatever works for you works for you, but I'm the best. Writers are also avid readers, in my opinion, And so for me, it's just I just around myself with creativity as often as I can. And I also watch a lot of trash television a lot, and it's great, and it's OK to just, like, let go. And like when I just hit a wall. Sometimes I hit a wall and I just recognized nothing more is going to happen in this essay tonight. So I'm going to go watch Vanderpump rules. And that helps. Speaking of consuming a lot of art, that there's a huge stack of books behind me that a number of people have commented on, Um and, um, to that end, Aaron on Facebook wants to know, Is there something inspirational that's in your head right now? Either that you're reading or that you're crafting? I am actually writing an essay for The New York Times. The piece I wrote last week was called No one's coming to save Us, remember, no one's coming to save us. And so this week's pieces called How We Save Ourselves and so I've been looking at everything that's going on, and I've just been thinking about Maybe this is different and so here's what we can do in this moment we have to, and it's just a piece about how we have to sustain this moment and how you can't just be like reaching out to black people today. You have to, you know, right now, a lot of people are minor, like read books by black women and, like you should be doing that every day. That's like not something you should only do during Black History Month or when you're feeling guilty about racism. You should read it because we're excellent writers. And so that's the kind of piece that I'm working on right now. And it's, um it's actually inspiring me because, you know, I don't think that black people need to come up with solutions to end our own oppression because we didn't create it. But it's nice to think about sort of looking ahead instead of looking in the ground. All right, The last thing I want to cover its in on along the the lines, the arc of your career and all of the different media and I have been successful in so many things. Um, with here to slay with your podcast season one just ended. Tell me there's more. There is season two starts on June 30th so we're in pre production right now. They've actually done a couple of recordings. We are actually trusting, and I are thinking about putting out an episode before June 30th simply because so Knapp putting that we just don't I don't think we can wait that long, my producers for some reason or dragging their heels. So we're trying to figure that out right now. The logistics of getting an episode but out now. But it's been interesting. You know, I think a lot of people think anyone could do a podcast that you just need a microphone and, uh, computer. And there's a steep learning curve and are learning. Curve was very steep. We had to fire our first production company, me because racism and, um, it's been a lot, but we've learned a lot. We got a couple of words, which was surprising. Uh, and I think we're really looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish with our second season. And, um, it's just sort of expanding. Now that we know a little bit more about the podcasting world. We have really strong producers that we learn a lot from. You have been doing this for some time, and so it's nice to be doing something new and learning something Neil that's just get. And Debbie might be able to give you a few pointers, probably. No. I'm only, uh, married to someone who's very good at podcasting. Anything for 15 years, but for 15 years, sometimes. Like, tougher podcast problem. And she give me an answer immediately. It's Ah, uh, I had the good fortune of being on on her show once, and I've watched a few of them live when I'm rolling through New York. It's such a treat. Um, well, we'll look for more from you in the podcast world with here to slay. Um, I wanted to say thank you so much for retracing so many of your steps in your creative career. Your creative process, the current time we're in right now. Um, one last ask. Is there anything that you would prescribe to anyone who is listening right now? Just open ended. The mic is yours. I think people know where to find you. You are are gay at Twitter, where you're very active. Um Roxane Gay at that instagram. Is that correct? I think Roxanne Gay 74. Yeah. Oh, yeah. One end for everyone out there. Um, but just if you have the mic and we're looking for advice from Roxane Gay, what can you tell us? I don't know. Um I think that you should make sure that you don't stop thinking about racism and its persistent and pernicious effects this week. Well, you have to carry it forward. And so I think that every person watching this should map out for themselves, even write it down on a piece of paper. What are you going to do for the rest of the year and into next year To keep the momentum of this moment going? Thank you so much for being on the show and for sharing and for giving us your time. Um, we'll make sure that this gets seen far and wide, grateful for all your work. And, um, thanks for the time today, thinking everyone in the world make sure to check out Roxanne. She's probably got a few new books coming out knowing how, um e What are the dates on those? So we know when we can keep an eye out for the releases. My book, How to Be Hurt will be out in spring 2021. And my wife a novel. The Here I learned everything will be out and fall 2021. And if you're like me and you can't wait that long, the podcast two starts in 20 days. All right, everyone. Thanks so much, Roxanne. Really appreciate it.