“How” a short story by Roxane Gay from “The New Black” anthology

Week 23 of Deal Me In 2015 brought me the four of hearts and with it this story by author Roxane Gay, who just happens to currently reside in Indiana, teaching at Purdue University. Last year – almost exactly a year ago – I read her story “North Country” for Deal Me In 2015, and earlier this year I also read her novel An Untamed State but never blogged about it. My roster of stories I’m reading in 2015 (with links to any posts I’ve written about them) may be found here if you’re interested.

“How” is the story of Hanna, a twin whose grown-up (at 27 years old) life has become populated with “usurpers.” She lives with a house full of them. Her unemployed husband, sister, brother in law and her father – a laid-off miner who never found work again and lives a drinking existence.

The story has an uncommon structure, but it was one I was able to rapidly fall into step with. Each titled section is an explanation of how certain components of Hanna’s life came to pass: (e.g. “How Hanna met and married Peter”, “How Red… Got his reputation”, “How these things came to pass,” etc.) Hanna, the only one in her household who works, holds down two jobs and has little time to herself, but takes that time that she does have to pose as a student at a local college, notching encounters with male students in a kind of diverting masquerade. She also explores a relationship with a lifelong friend, Laura, with whom she is plotting to escape her unfair life.

A quotation near the end of the story gives your pretty good idea of the type of existence Hanna has led:

The Twins stood before their father, their mother, their husbands. They stood in the house where they had grown up filled with broken people and broken things.”

So… it’s not a very cheery story (and I’m sure it’s not intended to be), but I enjoyed the style and the way Hanna interacted with the other characters, especially her twin sister, Anna (Of course her name is Anna!).

This is the third story I’ve read from The New Black, a “Neo-Noir” collection of stories. Both the others were excellent, one of them – Benjamin Percy’s “Dial Tone”   – being another Deal Me In 2015 pick. I learned of this anthology some time ago from Paula Cappa’s excellent blog.

What about you? Have you read anything by Roxane Gay? She may be best known for her essay collection “Bad Feminist,” which is on my list but hasn’t bubbled to the top yet. What are some of your favorite short story anthologies? (I’m always looking for stories for future years’ DMI rosters…) 🙂

Below : Author Roxane Gay


  1. June 7, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Thanks so much for posting about this. As the editor of TNB, it was important for me to get a wide variety of stories for this, the first anthology I ever edited, and also the first book for Dark House Press. We say that we publish “neo-noir, speculative fiction with a literary bent.” And Roxane always blows me away, the way she finds such powerful ways to step into the darkness. I’m a huge fan of Ben Percy, as well. Love that story. What was the third one you read? OH, and if I had to toss out a RG story, I was going to say “North Country” but since you mentioned that already, I’ll say “Strange Gods” which originally ran in Black Warrior Review. Thanks for the support.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jay said,

      June 8, 2015 at 1:11 pm

      My pleasure- and thanks for stopping by.

      The other story I’ve read was “Father, Son & Holy Rabbit” or something like that. I believe it was the first story in the book. It also blew me away with its Donner Party-esque-ness 🙂

      I liked the Percy story so much I bought his recent book. I just haven’t gotten to it yet.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: