An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

I just finished An Untamed State by Roxane Gay, and I am hesitant to say it was good. It was heavy and beautifully written and captivating, but I can’t call it good. “Good” reduces it. 

Gay brings us into the mind of Mirielle, a Haitian-American who is kidnapped and raped during a visit home to see her parents. The title is a reference to the animal that she is reduced to at the hands of these men, these men who rob her of her safety, her confidence, and her ability to be a mother or a wife. They rob her of her ability to do anything beyond survive. She tells herself that nothing can break her, but by the end of the novel, she admits that she died during those thirteen days.

I am still reeling from this novel. I kept turning back to look at the picture of Gay and to read the words, “this is her first novel” to remind myself that this was a work of fiction. It felt so real. I don’t know anything about Gay’s personal life or how she filled this story with such roaring emotion, but it felt so real*. I feltthis book. 


“There is nothing you cannot do when you are no one.”

“I became two women– the one who remembered everything and the one who remembered nothing. This required a delicate balance.”

“In impossible circumstances one is faced with impossible choices.”– Sebastien, Mirielle’s father, who does not quite understand the meaning of this.

*Edit: I read this interview with Gay after writing my review. It gives some insight into her background. 



Summer reading list

big sur river

Summer has barely begun, and I am already three books deep. That’s the beauty of one summer class and a ten hour work week. I am taking a collection management course, and it’s going to be a little intense since it’s smushed into the summer session. I am currently reading a book about the civil war (which one of my pre-K kids calls the “silver war”) from which I am to glean managerial and organizational details. Yawn.

I keep ordering books and borrowing books from the library, and I really don’t have a plan for them until I gain an understanding of how busy this semester will be. Nevertheless, I am creating a summer reading list in an attempt to navigate my ocean of books. Without further ado, I present to you Christina’s Summer Reading List (that she will maybe, probably read or at least attempt to).

1. Wild, because duhhh

2. An Untamed State, by Roxane Gay. This book is blowin’ up over at the Rumpus and pretty much everywhere. Roxane Gay is a legitimate literary force to be reckoned with, and I am excited/nervous to read this. I think I will probably cry a lot.

3. All the Light we Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. This book is getting attacked with critical acclaim in a way I haven’t seen in a while. I have read a book of his short stories, so I know that the acclaim isn’t just hogwash. Also, he came to my college once, so we are practically friends. I’ve got to support ol’ Anthony.

4. A Witness in Exile, by Brian Spears. Spears is the poetry editor of the Rumpus and a poetry professor at Drake University (which is where my bff Amy lives, holla). I follow him on Tumblr, and his poetry is so heavy and emotional that I find myself needing more all the time. So, I bought it and it is on its way to me.

5. The Sea Around Us, by Rachel Carson. I picked this book up yesterday in Prospero’s in Kansas City, and I am so glad I did. I have never heard of it, and I don’t know how, because everybody loves it. It uses poetic language to depict the sea in a way that only actually watching the waves can do (or so I’ve heard).

6. The Hours, by Michael Cunningham. I always thought this just looked like a boring movie, but my interest was piqued when we discussed it in a class a few years ago. I am really digging Virginia Woolf right now, and I have heard great things about this novel.

7. The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman. I read excerpts of this book in a class, but I have never read the whole thing. Nevertheless, I am continuously extolling its virtues to my husband in hopes that he’d read it. Surprise! My professor recommended (see: encouraged, see: mandated) us to read this book this semester.