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Meeting Roxane Gay at the UB Distinguished Speaker Series

Photo by the Community of Giving Legacy Initiative who sponsor MAP's youth employees to attend the UB Distinguished Speaker Series.

By Birch K

Last week Thursday, I and a couple other MAP youth got the amazing opportunity to meet Roxane Gay in addition to attending her distinguished speaker talk. Most speakers have a pre-stadium informal Q&A session with a handful or UB students and other attendees. We were in what looked like a classroom, except there were three rows of armchairs - in addition to the regular plastic seats. After her introduction we got to have a bit of insight into her process as a writer and (occasional) speaker. As a growing writer myself, I asked her where her best criticism comes from. She replied that having an editor is very valuable to her. Unless she's indulging in a bit of narcissism, she said reviews are really made for readers, rather than writers. However, her writing was certainly not the only thing Roxane discussed. She also spoke about her guilty habit of watching Desperate Housewives, or as she put it 'skinny people misbehaving.'

She also talked about receiving internet hate. Aa a queer, black, womanist/feminist writer, trolls tend to send her hate. She told us that she mostly doesn't care, but some people make physical threats and that she 'wants to hide in her apartment all the time out of fear' but doesn't take it seriously.

After the Q&A session our troupe took a trip to the buffet on campus and ate our weight in food. Then we went to her actual talk. She was a bit unconventional in that she didn't have an actual speech. She read us some passages and answered audience questions. Her 'talk' was postponed from an earlier date, so there was a significantly smaller audience. Luckily, that meant two of us got our questions answered. I queued up and when I got to the mic Roxane remembered my name! She is a very funny, engaging person and she has a very reserved manner of speaking. It was a great change from the past speakers I've seen and I hope we get to attend more like her.

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