North Country by Roxane Gay

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I drew the ten of hearts for week 20 of my Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge. I own North Country as part of the 2012 Edition of “The Best American Short Stories” series, several volumes of which have provided fodder for my Deal Me In challenges over the past few years. I don’t think it is currently available for reading online anywhere, but spending a few bucks on The Best American Short Stories of 2012 isn’t a bad idea. 🙂 In selecting stories from this collection to include in my Deal Me In roster, I made use of the Contributors’ Notes section of the book. Here’s what Roxane Gay said about her story:

“I moved to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to pursue a Ph.D. and realized I had moved into a different world, one where it was cold and snowy and where nothing made sense. Everyone kept asking me if I was from Detroit, and it was confusing and irritating because I had never been asked such a thing in my life. I’m from Nebraska. Finally, a few months into my tour of duty, which would last five years, I realized, oh, right, the only black people they know are from Detroit. Then it became a game to see who would ask the question, how often, and how I might answer it. My responses got creative. In my fourth year, I met a logger who would do strange things like take me into the woods and bring me dead deer. I started to realize there was a lot more complexity and beauty in the U.P. than I had realized, so I wrote a story about it – a love letter to the North Country.”

I liked the story a lot and felt the author did an excellent job of capturing the feelings of alone-ness and isolation she must have encountered in her own situation. I loved the opening lines of the story:

“I have moved to the edge of the world for two years. If I am not careful, I will fall.”

Nice imagery. I also enjoyed how the author details how the narrator adapts to her new world, letting her guard down ever so slowly and never quite all the way. How her past “traumas” effect her current behavior, and so on. A good story, and one that made me want to read more by this author.

I didn’t find the text of the story available online anywhere, but I did find a video of the author reading her work it’s about 25 minutes long and can be found at http://vimeo.com/53978525

(below: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The edge of the world?)

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5 Comments

  1. Dale said,

    May 25, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Jay,
    I lived in Hibbing, MN for a year when I was in fourth grade. I understand “the edge of the world”. And I understand feeling like an outsider. I think I would like this story.
    -Dale

    Like

    • Jay said,

      May 28, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      I think you would too, Dale. I really enjoyed her writing style. I. Read a couple shorter flash fiction pieces of hers via her web site and liked them too.

      Like

  2. Nancy said,

    May 25, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    I should find this story! We have lived in Up North lower peninsula of Michigan and it is strange enough. I am from Detroit Metro and we will retire there next month. People think it is all crime and rusting buildings. They can’t understand why we would retire there instead of in the isolated but beautiful area we have lived in for two years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jay said,

      May 28, 2014 at 12:30 pm

      I spent a great, week-long vacation one summer at a friend’s family’s place on Torch Lake in the Upper LP. Awesome memories, and that clear sky – Wow!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. nptexas said,

    October 11, 2015 at 1:03 am

    I heard this story read on Selected Shorts podcast. It was read beautifully, acted really, by Adepero Oduye. It was so moving I listened twice. It’s just a beautiful, lovely and powerful story. I saved it to read again.

    Thank you, Roxane Gay
    And Adepero Oduye.

    Liked by 1 person


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