Author Roxane Gay spoke on Tuesday at Colby College’s Center for the Arts and Humanities, addressing this year’s humanities theme, “Presence of the Past.”

Gay spoke about how writing vulnerably about issues from body image to sexual assault in her books has allowed her to “tak(e) ownership of the narrative of my body,” a process that was both difficult and empowering.

“It’s just hard living in a body when the world has rigid ideas of what a body should look like,” she said.

Gay also noted an expectation of women and marginalized groups to “cannibalize our trauma” and said she hopes to see a future in which the stories and perspectives of minorities can expand beyond narratives of pain and other-ness. She advised students who are frustrated with racism and homophobia to “treat (racists and homophobes) as the other, the aberration, because they are.”

Gay suggested that one of the best ways to heal and learn from various transgressions is to listen genuinely to those harmed by the actions and to believe them. And for those burdened with the daily task of trying to change the perspectives of those unwilling to listen, Gay urged them to practice self-care and think of the most effective ways to expend energy.

“You can exhaust yourself trying to do the impossible,” she said.

Gay’s writing, much of which focuses on the Haitian diaspora, has appeared in numerous publications and collections. She is the author of the books “Ayiti,” “An Untamed State,” “Bad Feminist,” “Difficult Women” and “Hunger.”


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