Image of Opinions: A Decade of Arguments, Criticism, and Minding Other People's Business
Release Date: 
October 10, 2023
Reviewed by: 

“At times, people treat me like an opinion-vending machine,” writes Roxane Gray, the academic and author whose following has grown enormously. In Opinions, she offers an array of her nonfiction pieces of the past decade previously published in The New York Times, the Guardian, Harper’s, and other outlets.

She proves to have an opinion on most everything, a knack she picked up from her mother, she says.

Fortunately for readers, she brings her sharp intelligence, and sometimes plain common sense, to matters from politics to black-lives-matter to the state of the culture. Moreover, she does so as a distinct outsider—Gay is black, queer, and obese—unafraid of speaking her mind.

We get her unvarnished takes on The Fast and Furious movie franchise (“so wonderful”), the awfulness of people online, and the “almost dark, sexual energy to how people talk about the portent Donald Trump, as if they are both disgusted and excited about each new terrible revelation.”

She writes most powerfully about the violence facing Black people;

“Black children are not allowed to be children. They are not allowed to be safe, not at home, not at pool parties, not driving or sitting in cars listening to music, not walking down the street, not in school. For Black children, for black people, to exist is to be endangered. Increasingly, as a Black woman in America, I do not feel alive. I feel like I am not yet dead.”

Imagine gulping over that with your morning coffee while reading Gay’s column in The New York Times.

She offers no apologies for her stinging remarks about the latest police shooting of a Black youth or the “white men assembled to rage for a world long lost” in Charlottesville, Virginia. “I have a voice and I am going to use it, as loudly as I can,” she writes.

A gifted writer, she manages to remain direct and lucid no matter what the topic. She is least engaging when writing about Madonna and other celebrities (not really what we want Gay for) and most her pugnacious self when holding forth on race, sexuality, and gender.

On several occasions, she says, “I’m trying to do the best I can,” which is needless but underscores her almost apologetic spirit in dropping bombshell assessments of the ugliest human behaviors.

As for online misinformation, she reminds us there is a great difference between censorship and curation. Too many platforms simply do nothing. “They frame doing nothing as a principled stand to protect free speech.”

No matter what the subject, she always keeps back from the frenzy of the moment, says what she sees, and leaves readers to consider things in a new light.

Does a white supremacist who killed Black churchgoers really deserve the forgiveness of victims’ families? Is To Kill a Mockingbird all that good?

Gay the outsider always challenges and provokes.

“When I publish a new essay that’s provocative in some way, my father will reach out, in a concerned but always teasing manner, about how I’m making too many enemies,” she writes in her introduction. “He worries that by virtue of expressing opinions, I am burning bridges. He is probably right, but that is never my intention. And, frankly, any bridge my work might burn is not a bridge I have any interest in traversing.”

An intelligent and likable author whose views are sometimes in your face.