A Year in the Life: 2019

Roxane Gay’s year of reading

Roxane Gay
Gay Mag
Published in
8 min readFeb 5, 2020

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‘Piles of French Novels’ (1887) by Vincent van Gogh, oil on canvas. Credit: VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images

TThis was a year where I felt like I didn’t get anything done. I didn’t write much and when I did I wasn’t very happy with what I wrote. I didn’t read much. I travelled too much. Toni Morrison died and I reflected on her legacy. I wrote a comic series called The Banks about a family seeking vengeance and a payday that will change their lives. I had a great meal at Little Dom’s. I wrote about how I have to steal time to write these days. I profiled Melina Matsoukas on the eve of her film debut. I profiled Kerry Washington. I wrote a short story called “Immediate Family.” I made some but not enough progress on a YA novel and my next nonfiction book, How to Be Heard. They are coming along, I guess. I co-wrote a graphic novel that will be out in October 2020. I started no fewer than thirty essays and short stories that are in various states of disarray because the words simply aren’t coming these days. I have to grind everything out and worry that all my best writing is behind me because I can’t seem to connect to that magic that usually carries me on the page.

I taught a class at Yale on writing trauma and worked with some incredible students. I wrote a lot of recommendation letters. I presented Jordan Peele with an award and after the ceremony Beck started playing some songs and Chris Martin was randomly there and he jumped on stage and was just really feeling Beck and he had a tan. I received a couple of honorary degrees. I worked on a lot of projects that may or may not go anywhere. It often felt like I was just spinning my wheels. I worked in a couple of writer’s rooms and learned that when you work in a writer’s room you get free lunch. I wrote forewords and introductions for anthologies. I co-created a podcast with the inimitable Tressie McMillan Cottom and there were some growing pains, but we’re getting the hang of it, supported by an incredible team of producers. I started a magazine that allows me to publish thoughtful and thought provoking writing. I judged a cookbook contest. I judged a short story collection contest. I guest-edited Stylist magazine. I endorsed Elizabeth Warren for president. That woman I started dating last year? The fast walker? She still walks incredibly fast. She loves stairs and kombucha and New York. We got engaged in October on a boardwalk at the beach and the sun was setting…

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Roxane Gay
Gay Mag

I write. I want a tiny baby elephant. If you clap, I clap back. Books.: Ayiti, Untamed State, Bad Feminist. Difficult Women, World of Wakanda 1–5, Hunger.