Roxane Gay, cultural critic and author of Bad Feminist and Difficult Women, takes EW's Pop Culture of My Life quiz and opens up about her love for Vanderpump Rules and Edith Wharton.

By Isabella Biedenharn
January 13, 2017 at 05:38 PM EST
Jay Grabiec

Roxane Gay, cultural critic and author of Bad Feminist, An Untamed State, and most recently the story collection Difficult Women, opens up about her diverse pop cultural loves, from Edith Wharton and Pretty Woman to Mariska Hargitay’s ever-evolving hairdos on Law & Order: SVU.

My favorite book as a child

The Little House on the Prairie books, all of them.

A book that really cemented me as a writer

Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. I loved the sly social critique elegantly written into a damn fine novel. The first time I read that book, when I was finished, I held it to my chest and thought, “I want to write like this.”

A book, movie, or TV show I’ve read or watched over and over again

I watch Law & Order: SVU over and over. I’ve seen most of the show’s episodes at least… 20 times each. I suppose I should be embarrassed about this but I am not. I love a good procedural drama and the range of Mariska Hargitay’s haircuts.

A classic that I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never read

I’ve never read The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir. I’m a very bad feminist.

A book I’ve pretended to have read

I have spent hours trying to think of something but nothing comes to mind. I don’t really pretend to have read books.

An illicit book that I had to read in secret as a kid

I was really lucky in that my parents didn’t monitor my reading. So long as it was in a book, my parents didn’t really micromanage the process. That’s why I read Clan of the Cave Bear at a very young age and learned A LOT!

A book that people might be surprised to learn that I loved

The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.

The last book that made me laugh out loud, and the last one that made me cry

The last book that made me cry is Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, a devastating novel about the middle passage. The last book that made me laugh out loud is out in April 2017 — Made for Love by Alissa Nutting. It is so darkly, brilliantly hilarious.

The fictional character who is my hero

It varies. Today I’ll say The Wife in Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife, because in the end, she got hers.

My literary crush

I crush hard on Zadie Smith. She is so insightful, intelligent, elegant and versatile as a writer. I love seeing how she grows and evolves from one novel to the next and her nonfiction always wracks me with both admiration and envy.

The actor I’d want to play me in a movie

Queen Latifah has the chops to play me. I love her acting work. Also, she’s super hot.

The TV show I think doesn’t get its due

People have never really given Grey’s Anatomy its due. That show is still on the air and still consistently entertaining. Often, when I’m talking about a recent episode of the show, people invariably say, “That’s still on the air,” and I want to punch them. Yes, it’s on the air and it is amazing.

The last TV series I binged

I binge Law & Order: SVU and Criminal Minds on the regular. Death, darkness, depravity, deception. What’s not to binge upon?

My guilty pleasure TV show

Vanderpump Rules. It’s the Seinfeld of reality television. Nothing ever happens. And the cast is comprised of people who are so craven I cannot look away. Seriously, in a recent episode, Lala walked up to Katie and a couple others, I think, and was friendly, just saying hello. Later, when Katie recounted the story she was basically like, “I can’t believe Lala just came up to us and politely engaged us in conversation.” I MEAN GIRL, WHAT?! It was the most amazing moment of television.

My all-time favorite movie

Pretty Woman! IDGAF. I said it.

The last book I gave as a gift

The Keys by DJ Khaled.

The book I would use to squash a bug

Maestra by LS Hilton. I hated that book quite a lot.

The comic I wish I’d read when I was younger

I wish I had read Wonder Woman back in the day.

The comic I recommend most often

I love recommending Saga. I am really enjoying the series. It’s so imaginative and strange and at the heart of it is a love story, which is my favorite thing.

The comic book character I’d like to write next

I’d love to write Storm or Iron Heart and if I could get my hands on Batman, he would sort his issues out in no time at all.

The song that always makes me feel better

Nothing Really Matters” by Lauryn Hill.

The last album I listened to

The soundtrack to the movie Moonlight. So gorgeous and evocative.

The first album I bought with my own money

I think it was Thriller by Michael Jackson. I bought it on vinyl, FYI. Classic.

The song people might be surprised I know all the words to

Paradise by the Dashboard Light” by Meatloaf. I used to work in a store that played classics from the ’70s and ’80s on repeat and so, I’ve got that catalog pretty much memorized.

The song that reminds me of my first crush

There’s a Meeting in My Bedroom” by Silk. High school, man.

The first book I bought with my own money

Sweet Valley High #1: Double Love.

The fictional place I’ve dreamed of moving to

The moon off the planet Endor.

The fictional character I’d want on my side in a zombie apocalypse

I’d want Alice from the Resident Evil movies by my side. She seems exceptionally capable in a zombie crisis.

Who I would invite to my dream dinner party

Zadie Smith, Edith Wharton, Oscar Wilde, my best friend and Channing Tatum. We would have the best night ever and maybe, just maybe, after some scintillating conversation, Channing would grace us with a reenactment of that scene where he becomes White Chocolate. Bless.

The fictional group of pals I’ve always felt I belonged in

I belong with the gang at Sweet Valley High, of course.

Have I ever bought my own book in a bookstore?

I sure did. This one time, I had to do a reading and I had forgotten my book so I bought my own book. I don’t know if anyone saw me but I also don’t care. I like my books!

What I’m reading now

I’m reading I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi, Sunshine State by Sarah Gerard and All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders.

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