Excerpts from interview of Roxane Gay by Monica Lewinsky published in Vanity Fair:
“We are walking wounds, but I am not sure any of us know quite how to talk about it,” writes Roxane Gay in her new essay, “Writing Into the Wound,” published on Scribd. The piece, inspired by an undergraduate workshop Gay taught at Yale on writing trauma, describes Gay’s experience attempting to write about being gang-raped at age 12, first in fictional stories written as a teenager, “melodramatic and overwrought and dark and graphic,” and then, as an adult, in work like her essay collection Bad Feminist. “I wrote around it,” she writes of that book’s description of the assault. “In part, I was protecting myself. I could admit this thing had happened to me, but I was not ready to share the details.” Finally, in Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, Gay wrote “directly and openly about my sexual assault, how it changed me, how that assault has haunted me for more than thirty years.”
In her new essay, she describes the book’s reception—overwhelmingly positive responses from readers, while interviews with some members of the media ranged from misinformed to callous—and how the experience of writing the book led to further questions of how to depict trauma in writing. The piece is well hewn but expansive, exploring the ways in which we reveal ourselves through writing—by choice, as in the detailing of an assault, or more obliquely, as in how a journalist describes a piece of writing about an assault, and the writer who experienced it.
Roxane and I have known each other for a few years and, of course, my awareness of and admiration for her writing predated that. I’m sure few would wonder why I was interested in talking to her about this particular essay—which we did via a Zoom call from our respective Los Angeles homes—about the nuance and intricacy involved in writing about one’s trauma for public consumption.
To read this riveting exchange between Lewinsky and Gay, please see the full Vanity Fair article.