Through the Womb
by Roxane Gay

By May 3, 2012Profile, Prose

Originally published in Willow Springs 70

From the author

Notes on “Through the Womb”

I love to write about women who have complex relationships with their bodies and complex relationships with men. This story came about because I was talking one night with a guy, and he made this random statement about infertile women as being invisible to him. He wasn’t trying to be malicious but his words just shocked me, and I thought, “Does he have any idea what he is saying?” I kept stewing and stewing, and from there, the story started coming together about a man who loves to have children and a woman who can’t and the other woman who can, and the ways in which their lives would intersect and diverge. I also live in a small town where it is very easy to run into the former lovers of the people you date. Just around the corner from my home is a rehabilitation center/home for the elderly, and every day I drive by and see some of the elderly in the common room, sitting, mostly alone. I wanted to incorporate those things into my story as well. This is one of those stories that unfolded fairly easily. All it takes for me is a moment. I can do anything with a moment.

Notes on Reading

Every book I read shapes me as a writer in some way, by showing me craft I want to emulate, aspire to, or avoid. I love coming back to my favorite books though. I know a book is excellent when I never tire of rereading it. The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton, is a book I read regularly because it always grounds me if I am feeling lost with my own writing. The intricate detail, the muted emotional torment, the sharpness of the social responsibilities—I am enthralled by all of it. I also love rereading the Little House on the Prairie books—the lovely descriptions, the unwavering hopes of the Ingalls family, the profound sense of place. When I reread these books, I sink into them because they are so familiar and deeply satisfying. They remind me of how I want readers to feel when they read my own writing.


About Roxane Gay

Photo: Jay Grabiec/HarperCollins

Roxane Gay’s writing appears or is forthcoming in Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, New Stories From the Midwest 2011 and 2012, Salon, Oxford American, NOON, American Short Fiction, Indiana Review, Brevity, The Rumpus, and many others. She is the co-editor of PANK, essays editor at The Rumpus, and is currently at work on a new novel and essay collection.