Media Releases

Cultural critic Roxane Gay is MLK keynote speaker at North Central College

By Nancy Dunker

Jan 03, 2017

North Central College welcomes author, professor and cultural critic Dr. Roxane Gay Jan. 17 as its keynote speaker for this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Week celebration.

In her talk, titled “Roxane Gay: Bad Feminist and Difficult Woman,” she will address controversies about feminism and the current political climate. Gay will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, in the College’s Wentz Concert Hall at the Fine Arts Center, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville. Tickets are $5/person to the public; call 630-637-SHOW (7469) or visit

“Known to be a very engaging speaker, she can tackle subjects like feminism and social justice issues with humor and thoughtfulness,” says Dorothy Pleas, North Central’s director of multicultural affairs.

Her debut novel, “An Untamed State,” established Gay as a talented writer and was long-listed for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize. A fictional depiction of privilege in the face of poverty and redemption over sexual assault, it’s the story of a willful woman attempting to find her way back to the person she once was, and of how redemption is found in the most unexpected of places.

That same year, Gay published the New York Times bestselling collection of essays “Bad Feminist,” an exploration of modern feminism. She tackles issues such as sexual politics, female friendships, race, body image and competitive Scrabble playing (of which she is an avid player).

Throughout her years as an author, Gay has worked to raise the profile of writers of color. In 2012, she published an extensive list of writers of color on The Rumpus. In “Bad Feminist,” she similarly draws attention to the representation of black lives both on screen and on page. Gay also is recognized as the first black woman to ever write for Marvel in the “Black Panther” comic series titled “World of Wakanda,” in which she began to incorporate black gay women into the comic sphere.

In 2017, Gay will release her highly anticipated memoir, “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body,” which chronicles her experience with weight and body image, as well as a collection of short stories titled “Difficult Women.”

Gay is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, was coeditor of the online literary magazine PANK and founder of Tiny Hardcore Press. An associate professor of English at Purdue University, she emphasizes the importance of media literacy and cultural criticism.

In 1960, King spoke to an audience of North Central students when he visited campus. Since then, the College honors and remembers his visit each year with a keynote presentation, musical tributes, a prayer breakfast and selected activities.

At the event, Anderson’s Bookshops will have copies of Gay’s book, “Difficult Women” released Jan. 3, available for purchase and signing by the author at the end of her talk.

This North Central event is partially sponsored by Nicor Gas, the College’s offices of Multicultural Affairs and Ministry and Service, Cultural Events, Student Governing Association and Residence Life. For more information contact Pleas at 630-637-5156.

For an image of Gay or information about a press opportunity before Gay speaks, contact Nancy Dunker, associate director of public relations, at or 630-637-5306.

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About North Central College: Founded in 1861, North Central College is an independent, comprehensive college of the liberal arts and sciences that offers more than 55 undergraduate majors and graduate programming in five areas. Just 30 minutes from Chicago's Loop, North Central's campus is located in the Historic District of Naperville, Illinois-rated by Money magazine as among the nation's "Best Places to Live" and by Chicagoans as the most desirable town to live. With more than 2,900 undergraduate and graduate students, North Central College is committed to academic excellence; a climate that emphasizes leadership, ethics, values and service; a curriculum that balances job-related knowledge with a liberal arts foundation; and a caring environment with small classes.