I'm very excited about the Rebecca Solnit reading tonight at Town Hall. But I'm a little sad I'll be missing another reading that's happening at the exact same time. Roxane Gay reads from her new novel An Untamed State at Elliott Bay Book Company tonight. It's a free reading, and if you're not going to see Solnit read tonight, you should seriously consider attending this reading.
An Untamed State is the story of a young woman who is kidnapped and held for ransom in Haiti. It opens with the kidnapping scene, and it's harrowing stuff:
I tried to grab onto the car door. He slammed his gun against my fingers. I yelled, "My baby. Don't hurt my baby." One of the men grabbed me by my hair, threw me to the ground, kicked me in my stomach. I gasped as I wrapped my hands around myself. A small crowd gathered. I begged them to help. They did not. They stood and watched me screaming and fighting with all the muscle in my heart. I saw their faces and the indifference in their eyes, the relief that it was not yet their time; the wolves had not yet come for them.
That's what makes this book so important: It focuses on the kind of situations from which people turn their backs, and it crafts those stories in compelling language, making them so relatable that you can't turn your eyes away from the page.
To prepare for the reading tonight, I suggest you read this interview with Gay at the Rumpus, in which Gay offers some candid truths about her process and her intent with the novel.
I wanted to write about this kind of violence in a way that was not pretty. I didn’t want to write around the violence so I tried to stare it down. It was not an easy choice but I do think it was the right choice.
On reading An Untamed State, you'll have to agree: It absolutely was the right choice.