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Tag: roxane gay

This Week in Words – May 12

by Treehouse Editors

compiled by Rachel Bondurant

First off, Maurice Sendak died this week. This cartoon is an interesting way to remember him.

Also, May is National Short Story Month. When did that start? Why am I just hearing about it? It’s nice to know we’ve automatically got this one covered, since all of our stories are short. And as a short story writer, it’s nice to know I’ve got my own month. Take that, poetry! NPR highlights several of their interviews with and pieces on writers of short form to honor Short Story Month, which is very cool.

This week, I am abandoning my usual interview-laden format in favor of a couple of terrific essays about two entirely different subjects.

The first is an essay by Jennifer Miller featured in The Millions called “In Defense of Autobiography.” Miller addresses the reluctance of writers to base fictional work in their own experiences for fear of being considered cliché or contributing to the “commoditization of fiction,” because autobiographical work is so marketable today. As someone whose first book was somewhat autobiographical, she defends the impulse of some writers to use their own lives in their work. If that is the story you are compelled to write, she says, then write it. Some people call that “navel-gazing,” but Justin Torres, author of We The Animals, says it is actually “mind-gazing….turning yourself outward, challenging your own assumptions and trying to make meaning out of life.” This is heartening for a writer who draws inspiration from real-life experiences (ahem, this writer). No matter what kind of story you mean to write, Miller concludes, the challenge is the same: “how best to say something valuable.”

The next essay was written by Treehouse contributor Roxane Gay, and it was featured in the The Rumpus this week. On the surface, “The Trouble with Prince Charming or He Who Trespassed Against Us” seems to be about all the flaws and fun that make worldwide phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey a delightful (and terrible) read. But the true message, as the title implies, is that stories like Fifty Shades, Twilight and even classic fairy tales certainly promise women can have their ideal Prince Charming and Happily Ever After, but never without a price. In the cases of Fifty Shades and Twilight, the price is especially high, and paid in exchange for the love of an abusive, controlling Prince Charming thinly veiled in the motivations of love or sex, or both. Though the books make for a fun read, Gay warns that the tone is too detrimental to dismiss. It “reinforces pervasive cultural messages women are already swallowing about what they should tolerate in romantic relationships, about what they should tolerate to be loved by their Prince Charming.” Gay conveys her warning against the increasingly potent message these stories are sending with an intelligent, modest and sometimes humorous tone that makes it impossible to ignore her.

For a little in-house news, it bears mentioning that in the coming weeks, Treehouse will be having a Jesus’ Son retrospective featuring some very awesome writers. Stay tuned…

Finally, a little shout-out to the mothers of the Treehouse crew and all moms – it is because of you that we are here, doing what we love. Thank you, we love you, and happy Mother’s Day.


by a contributor

Roxane Gay

There was a girl who built a box with six walls. The walls were smooth like alabaster, cool like marble, made of beautiful things. Sometimes, the girl allowed people to look into her box but she was very careful about what she let them see. Sometimes, the girl ventured out of her box and into a world where she pretended the box did not exist. In the world beyond her box, she had a family she loved and who loved her but they did not know her. They did not know of the box, its walls, how it was made of beautiful things.

There was a girl who built a box with six walls. One by one she removed the bones from her body, stretched them like canvas, stretched them until they were pale and brittle. She lay in the center of her box made from her very own bones because she could no longer stand or sit. She had a family she loved and who loved her. They stepped inside her box, tried to pull her out but they could not and so they left her in her box made of bones, her bones and before long they forgot her and she lay, alone, her body limp and loose.

There was a girl who built a box with six walls, perfect white walls. There were no windows and no doors. In the ceiling there was an eye and above the eye a sky. The girl ran around her box all day and all night, ran so much her entire body became muscle and bone, no blood. As she ran she looked up into the eye and wished, desperately, for a glimpse of the sky.

There was a girl who built a box with six walls. The walls were smooth like alabaster, cool like marble, made of beautiful things. The girl sat quietly in her box, thought she was safe but every day, the walls inched closer. At first, she did not notice how her box grew smaller and smaller and then one day she did see. She did know. There was nothing she could do but wait for the walls to trap her body between them and then shatter her body to dust and after that, she did not know what might happen.

There was a girl who built a box with six walls, six glass walls. This box sat inside a home filled with a family, father mother child. The family lived and loved and the girl in the box beat her fists against the glass but it did not crack or shatter and the family did not see the glass box or the girl in the glass box. The girl realized she would watch this family’s entire lives pass by and all she would ever know of them would be what she saw from inside her glass box. Then the girl realized she was not alone inside her box and that, she understood, was even worse.

Roxane Gay lives and writes in the Midwest.

See Roxane’s list of 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series.

5 Things You Should Read (Cross-Smith)

by a contributor

from Leesa Cross-Smith, author of A Modest Guide to Truculence/Survival: Girls

  1. Gospel of John, The Bible – I love Jesus. The story of Jesus is unrivaled as my favorite story of all time.
  2. War by Sebastian Junger – Junger has a way of laying something out and then circling back around it and unpacking it to make sure you really get it. I love that. And he says these gorgeous, important things about war, in general, … as well as the lure of war to young men. Things like “don’t underestimate the things young men will wager in order to play that game one more time.” This is a rough beauty of a book and I love it.
  3. The Beach by Alex Garland – Garland does that thing (more than once) where he writes about something I wouldn’t normally necessarily be interested in, then earns my interest because he’s such an awesome, compelling writer. The Beach is one of my favorite summery-sit-outside-all-day-and-only-come-inside-to-refill-my-drink-and-get-snacks books.
  4. “Man in Space” (poem) by Billy Collins – Because Billy knows what’s up and so should everyone else.
  5. “North Country” (short story) by Roxane Gay – Roxane writes about a lot of things and I love when she writes about bearded, outdoorsy Carhartt overall-wearing men who are good to women. I love those men, I love reading about those men and I write about those men too. Roxane is one of my favorites.