Not That Bad

HarperCollins, 2018

In this valuable and revealing anthology, cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay collects original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women have to measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are “routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, bullied” for speaking out. Contributions include essays from established and up-and-coming writers, performers, and critics, including actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union and writers Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, Claire Schwartz, and Bob Shacochis. Covering a wide range of topics and experiences, from an exploration of the rape epidemic embedded in the refugee crisis to first-person accounts of child molestation, this collection is often deeply personal and is always unflinchingly honest. Like Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, Not That Bad will resonate with every reader, saying “something in totality that we cannot say alone.” Searing and heartbreakingly candid, this provocative collection both reflects the world we live in and offers a call to arms insisting that “not that bad” must no longer be good enough.

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From the author of Bad Feminist and Hunger (drop everything if you haven’t read this) comes a collection of first-person essays about rape, assault and sexual harassment. It couldn’t be more timely. Gay’s introduction moved me to tears, as did many of the pieces contributed by household names—Gabrielle Union, Ally Sheedy—but accounts from “regular” women moved me even more. Perhaps that’s the lesson we’re meant to take away from Not that Bad: we’re all “regular.” Shocking as they are, many of these stories will be familiar to us all—and we all deserve better.

Elisabeth Egan, “The 17 Best Books to Read this Summer,” Glamour

In Not That Bad the writer and editor Roxane Gay collects essays, almost all by survivors of rape, sexual assault, or child abuse. (A note on language: I use the term “victim” in the context of the criminal justice system, and “survivor” – in accordance with advice from organizations such as the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network – for those who have gone through the recovery process, or when discussing the effects of sexual violence.) The diversity is striking – not only of perspectives, but approach, too. This is a book of testimonies, indignations, reproaches, meditations, written with poignancy and skill.

The Times Literary Supplement

Not That Bad was the rare anthology that came right on time. Not a little late, not a little too soon. Right on time. One could argue that a thorough, rigorous collection of essays exploring our survival of, and brutal dependence on, rape culture is always timely. And one might be right. But reading these authors courageously curated by Gay, I got the sense that the authors, more than being inspired by the current movement to confront sexual violence, have wanted and needed to craft these essays for years. Now, for better and worse, the nation finally seems ready to wholly invest in the various shapes, consequences, and whys of the sexual violence epidemic in this country and its normalcy.

PW’s Top Authors Pick Their Favorite Books of 2018 – Kiese Laymon picks Not That Bad

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay This collection of essays from every angle of modern American rape culture should be required reading in 2018. Full of accounts that will be depressingly familiar to the majority of the human population who reads it, Not That Bad is stomach-churning in its honest vulnerability. There are no easy answers here; each essay, curated by Roxane Gay with palpable care, clarifies the creeping ubiquity of the evil we’re only beginning to address as a society. But it’s nevertheless critical reading, especially for anyone prepared to engage with the roots of the #MeToo movement. Not That Bad succeeds in illustrating exactly what is meant by the term rape culture: horror everywhere, even in moments that ought to be beautiful, even in moments so mundane they ought to mean nothing at all.

Alexis Gunderson, Paste Magazine’s The 16 Best Nonfiction Books of 2018

I suppose what I am saying here is that Roxane Gay’s Not That Bad is an important book, but it’s also one I wish didn’t have to exist. Gay notes in her introduction that she originally envisioned Not That Bad as a series of journalistically reported essays and features, genuine dispatches. Instead, the book is mostly confessional, first-person storytelling. And the storytelling is very good – observationally sharp, the writing often as vivid as bruises.

The Guardian

Roxane Gay was back at it again in 2018 with her highly thought-provoking, intelligent and valuable follow up to Bad Feminist and Hunger, Not That Bad. The anthology of first-person essays tackles rape, assault, and harassment head-on.

Cosmopolitan, 52 of the best books of 2018

What Gay really does is provide a place for people to voice their experiences free of shame and belittlement in carefully constructed, first-person accounts of harassment, assault, and rape. It’s also a must-see read.


A profoundly personal anthology.

Harper’s Bazaar

The essays contained in this volume bear testimony, but it is important to note that they are not police reports or news accounts, they are also art and should be appreciated for that as well as the truths they contain.

Amy Carleton, Cognoscenti – WBUR

The lauded social critic and provocateur curates a diverse and unvarnished collection of personal essays reckoning with the experiences and systemic dysfunction that produced #MeToo.

O: The Oprah Magazine

Timely. . . . It is a critical work that makes this much clear: The violations #MeToo rages against can and do damage people for a lifetime.

The Globe and Mail

One of 21 Books We’re Most Excited to Read in 2018


Not That Bad is essential reading.


If you’re looking for an inspiring read this Summer, this new collection will have you feeling powerful and highly informed.


One of the 10 of the Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2018


It’s hard to imagine a more fitting editor for a collection like this… everyone should read it.

Brooklyn Rail

one of 25 books we can’t wait to read in 2018

Boston Globe