Tag Archives: Roxane Gay

5: Ayiti

AyitiAyiti by Roxane Gay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

maybe even 4.5?

View all my reviews

I ordered this one from Amazon:

New Books

I’ve been a Roxane (with one N!) Gay fan ever since I discovered her. She goes to see All the Movies and writes the most amazing posts about them. Ayiti is her first book.

“Ayiti” is the pronunciation of Haiti in Haitian Creole. So these are stories of and about Haiti, Haitians, and the Haitian diaspora. Roxane’s parents immigrated from Haiti (to the US) and they still spend part of their time there.

Ayiti is a collection of short fiction and nonfiction. Some of the stories are flash length, some longer. At just over 100 pages, it isn’t a long book, but it is a powerful one. Her writing style is at once matter-of-fact and layered with sensory detail. It has a deceptively simple look, I think. There’s so much buried in it once you start digging.

My mother always told me: back away slowly from crazy people; they are everywhere.

“Voodoo Child” (21)


The story I thought was the standout of the collection was “Things I Know About Fairy Tales,” about a woman who is kidnapped for ransom. I think this was the favorite of a lot of readers and is the one she’s expanding into a novel. Rather than telling you how strong this story is, I will show you:

What you cannot possibly know about kidnapping until it happens to you is the sheer boredom of being kept mostly alone, in a small, stifling room. You start to welcome the occasional interruption that comes with a meal or a bottle of water or a drunken captor climbing atop you to transact some pleasure against your will. You hate yourself for it, but you crave the stranger’s unwanted touch because the fight left in you is a reminder that you haven’t been broken. You haven’t been broken.

“Things I Know About Fairy Tales” (38)

I could keep picking out bits that I liked, but let’s just say: it’s all good. This is an intense book. Perhaps it’s good that it’s short because you can only hold your breath for so long.

For accompanying musical atmosphere, check out Roxane’s Book Notes at Largehearted Boy.


P.S. In “All Things Being Relative” she compares Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with Haiti. Which reminded me, one of the reasons I first noticed her, even before I’d read much of her writing, was that she went to Michigan Tech. Back whenever that was, she was still a doctoral student there. Michigan Tech is my dad’s alma mater. When I was a kid, he’d get these alumni  mailouts, advertising their youth summer programs. One of them was a writing camp. Oh, how I wanted to go to that. I was always way too chicken to ask, though I honestly don’t know what answer I was more afraid of: yes or no. Both, maybe. Anyway, whenever she mentions the Upper Peninsula, it always reminds me that if different roads had been taken, that’s where I might have ended up.

One side of the story

[N]o matter how confessional a writer might seem, you are only seeing what they want you to see. You know what they want you to know. There are few things more controlled, to my mind, than a personal blog. It’s easy to believe you know everything about a person when you follow their blog or their writing online but you don’t. … Were holding up a mirror to ourselves but are controlling the angle.

You also only get to see one side of the story when you read a personal blog. … You see one side of the story, my side … You see the side of the story I choose to show you[.]

Roxane Gay

Changing the geography

I like watching a cut heal, how the scar tissue forms, changing the geography of what was there before, how slowly the wound closes until new skin grows over and eventually, there’s only a thin white scar and the tissue beneath it to remind you that something bloody and gaping had once been there.

Roxane Gay


I know how to leave one life for another but the older I get the more difficult it becomes, the more attached I am to what I leave behind.  I am tired of having to get through this and that and that other thing. I don’t think I have much get through left.

Roxane Gay


This marathon thing is going to suck on so many levels but I’m pretty sure I’m going to do it because someone told me I couldn’t and you really shouldn’t ever tell me I can’t do something. I’ve been told I’ll never publish, get a PhD, and any number of things. I’m the wrong one to dare. It never ends well for the other party. I hope no one ever tells me I can’t fly because you’ll see me throwing myself off a building, arms spread wide waiting for my body to take flight because that’s how fiercely I believe.

Roxane Gay

Do not care

My parents will not consider me a real writer in a way they can truly understand until they can go to Barnes & Noble and find something I’ve written, not in an anthology, but with my name alone on the spine. My writing career is the least relevant thing about me when it comes to my family and friends. It’s not that they don’t care but honestly, they do not care.

Roxane Gay

To know that secret

He liked to watch me on my laptop, how my face changed depending on what I was doing, how sometimes I laughed like I was reading about the best secret, how he wanted to know that secret. Sometimes, he would take my laptop from me and stand on the coffee table and hold it over his head and I would pretend to be angry and then he would run to another room and hide the laptop and when he came back I would give him my undivided attention. He liked that too.

Roxane Gay

Go, read the whole thing.