Written by Amara Hartman Photography by Lindsey Miller
Roxane Gay made a lasting mark on the essay scene with 2014s Bad Feminist, a New York Times best seller. Readers were sat down and schooled on Gay’s fair-minded but specific and entreating observations about womanhood and pop culture.
Roxane Gay. Image via The Star Tribune.
Image via Mother Jones.
Her recent memoir, Hunger, deals rawly with her relationship with food and body image. In June, she came to Magers & Quinn Booksellers in Minneapolis to talk about the book. The space was packed–anyone who hadn’t been there at 7PM sharp had no choice but to pile between the looming aisles and eavesdrop. “I curse like a sailor,” she aplombed as we arrived. That candor continued throughout the hour-long sitting as she fielded questions on her writing process and her books. Commentary and anecdotes about women in publishing, of color and queer representation, and society rounded out the well of introspection she draws from.
Just found this article at The New Yorker that reflects on how much of New York’s infrastructure memorializes the men who helped create it, but not the women. This reality is re-imagined in a book called “Nonstop Metropolis” by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro. Described as a “creative atlas of New York City,” they “[paid] homage to some of the great and significant women of New York City in the places where they lived, worked, competed, went to school, danced, painted, wrote, rebelled, organized, philosophized, taught, and made names for themselves.”
The women’s names aren’t picked arbitrarily or based just on the whimsy of the authors. The women named were actual, effective and noteworthy contributors to the history of New York City, but who were either forgotten of ignored in preference of their male counterparts. Rebecca Solnit lists some examples, which include Hannah Feake Bowne, a seventeenth-century Quaker preacher “who is routinely written out of history—even the home in Flushing where she held meetings is often called the John Bowne house;” three of the four female Supreme Court justices, and names connected with the rise of American feminism: Victoria Woodhull, Shirley Chisholm, and Guerrilla Girls.
“In a subtler way, names perpetuate the gendering of New York City. Almost every city is full of men’s names, names that are markers of who wielded power, who made history, who held fortunes, who was remembered; women are anonymous people who changed fathers’ names for husbands’ as they married, who lived in private and were comparatively forgotten, with few exceptions.”
Rebecca’s article isn’t to say there aren’t any representations of female founders in New York (obviously, the largest one being the Statue of Liberty). It’s to point out that where men grow up carried along by visual and historical acknowledgement of their ambition and creativity, women are far fewer between. What effect would it have on the mentality of female development if we were presented with the same lifelong, unquestioned affirmation?
The book itself looks as much like an informative journey as it is an artistic work. It would be really fascinating to see this thread expanded throughout a lot of major cities. Rebbecca did write similar books, but at a glance, it doesn’t look like they have them same theme as Nonstop Metropolis. Nonetheless, it’d still be a good addition to your library list or tablet as a creative reference in helping challenge your perspectives on the status quo.