As a writer, I was excited to take Roxane Gay’s MasterClass. She is regarded as one of the most prominent voices when it comes to writing for social change, and her work is a source of inspiration for aspiring writers and critics around the world.
Roxane Gay is also a professor, so I was sure she would be able to convey her knowledge in an effective way.
But did her MasterClass meet my expectations and would I recommend it to fellow writers?
Let’s find out.
Table of Contents
What is the Roxane Gay MasterClass?
This MasterClass is taught by bestselling author and cultural critic Roxane Gay. She is best known for her writings on racial and feminist issues as well as her political commentary.
In her MasterClass, Roxane teaches how to think about your writing when it comes to writing for social change. She tackles a range of writing-related topics, such as research, structure, language, and writer’s block, all while using her work and experiences as examples.
She also talks about another part of being a writer, which includes getting published, finding an agent, and navigating yourself in a literary world.
The course features 20 lessons with a duration of 3 hours and 2 minutes in total. So, it’s not very lengthy, but it’s comprehensive enough to provide an in-depth look at Roxane Gay’s writing process and tools.
Who is Roxane Gay?
Roxane Gay is a Haitian-American writer, editor, professor, and cultural critic. For Roxane, writing is a way of contributing to a political climate, and that’s why she’s known for addressing various issues, such as racism and violence toward women.
She has authored five critically acclaimed books to date, including a popular collection of essays Bad Feminist, a memoir Hunger, a novel Untamed State, and the nationally bestselling short story collection Difficult Women. She is also a contributing writer for The New York Times.
Roxane Gay has been writing for the majority of her life, and although her voice is consistent, it keeps evolving. However, her writing and commentary are usually centered on women, trauma, and the political climate in the U.S.
What is the target audience for Roxane Gay’s MasterClass?
As Roxane Gay mentions at the beginning of her course, you don’t have to be a writer to take her class.
Nevertheless, I believe aspiring writers would benefit the most from this course, especially those interested in writing short fiction, essays, and political commentary. Although she does give some universal writing tips, her lessons are primarily focused on finding challenging ideas and writing in a conscious, impactful way.
That being said, Roxane’s class is probably beneficial to anyone interested in topics related to social justice, feminism, and the fight against racism. Her work is imbued with opinions about these topics, and her lessons are somewhat similar; she aims to inspire change, even when she’s teaching.
All in all, I believe that some of the people who would benefit the most from this course include:
- Aspiring writers, critics, and journalists
- Admirers of Roxane Gay’s work
What does Roxane Gay’s MasterClass cover?
Roxane Gay’s MasterClass is insightful and easy to follow. However, she doesn’t delve deeper into writing techniques or rules.
When she breaks down her writing process, she tackles structure, getting ideas, choosing a title, etc. But even when she talks about writing tools, she is focused on her own work and process, which is great but doesn’t leave you with a bunch of useful notes.
Nonetheless, Roxane is very eloquent and persuasive, and she manages to keep things fast-paced and straightforward, even though she keeps bringing up her experience and work instead of addressing her learners.
The writer’s workshop lessons are an exception – this is where Roxane speaks to other writers and helps them improve their writing.
Here is a quick overview of what to expect from Roxane’s writing MasterClass:
- Lesson 1 is an introductory lesson where Roxane talks about her work and her class.
- Lessons 2-3 are focused on Roxane’s perspective as a Black feminist. She also reveals her approach and talks about her most famous pieces.
- Lessons 4-5 dig deeper into Roxane’s writing process and the various challenges a writer can face when getting started.
- Lesson 6 contains Roxane’s writing tips and advice, with a focus on her own approach and experiences.
- Lessons 7-8 are focused on important parts of the writing process: research and self-editing.
- Lesson 9 revolves around Roxane’s opinion on consuming and criticizing culture.
- Lesson 10 teaches how to write about trauma. Roxane uses excerpts from her book Hunger and the short story “La Negra Blanca” as examples.
- Lessons 11-13 are writer’s workshops where Roxane talks with other writers about their essays or short fiction, providing constructive feedback.
- Lessons 14-18 reveal what it’s like to be in the business of writing. Lessons cover publishing, finding an agent, using social media to engage with readers, and having a day job.
- Lessons 19-20 are the final lessons where Roxane talks about the value and duty of a writer and provides her final words of encouragement.
My favorite parts of Roxane Gay’s MasterClass
Although some aspects of this course aren’t my cup of tea, I don’t regret taking Roxane Gay’s course at all. It provided me with some fresh perspectives on writing and allowed me to understand Roxane’s work a little better.
Here are some of the lessons I particularly liked:
Challenging ideas and changing minds
It’s no news that Roxane Gay wants to inspire change with her writing, but this lesson offers a different look into her passion and inspirations.
As she puts it, words have meaning, and meaning has consequences. Roxane is a very thoughtful, fearless and self-conscious writer, and it was interesting to hear more about the way she approaches her work and life in general.
Roxane’s writing process
This lesson offers a more detailed look at Roxane’s writing process.
According to Roxane, writing is a muscle and it can be exercised. That’s always encouraging and reassuring to hear.
In the lesson, she also talks about common writing challenges such as writer’s block. I learned that when she feels blocked, she tries to engage with other art forms.
Consuming and criticizing culture
Roxane is known for approaching feminism and other topics through a lens of culture. She is a cultural critic, after all, so she consumes and criticizes cultural content in a very thoughtful way.
On the other hand, she is not afraid of consuming something that isn’t considered very progressive or feminist for the sake of entertainment, and that’s one of the things that inspired her piece Bad Feminist.
How much does Roxane Gay’s MasterClass cost?
Annual plans are typically available at $120 a year (or $10 per month) for the Individual plan, providing access to MasterClass courses on one device, $180 a year for the Duo plan (two devices), and $240 a year for the Family plan (six devices).
A MasterClass subscription gives you unlimited access to a catalog of 180+ classes. So, if you’re interested in taking multiple classes throughout the year, the subscription is definitely worth it.
Also, the platform offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, so if you’re not happy with your learning experience, you can request a full refund.
What I liked about Roxane Gay’s MasterClass
I generally enjoyed Roxane’s course.
Honestly, I didn’t know much about her pieces, so this was a great chance to learn more about the way she sees and approaches some topics I’m interested in as well.
I like her flexibility and diversity of genres, and I think she is a good teacher, even though she does seem to me a bit intimidating at times.
Either way, she did a great job at conveying her knowledge and sharing secrets of the trade in an open and understandable way. I would recommend this course to the admirers of her work and to anyone who is interested in becoming a writer or cultural critic.
Some of the reasons I would recommend Roxane’s MasterClass include:
Learning from a renowned writer
When it comes to writing for social change, is one of the most influential figures out there. As she puts it, she is an underrepresented voice that has infiltrated the mainstream.
Listening to an acclaimed writer talk openly about their creative process is always an amazing experience, and this time was no different.
Roxane’s lessons are rather concise and fast-paced. She tackles a variety of topics. This is generally an advantage, but that also doesn’t allow her to dig deeper into certain opinions or concepts.
Nevertheless, the course covers a lot of ground and provides a good foundation to build on.
Besides 1-on-1 teaching, the course also includes writer’s workshops. In these lessons, Roxane examines the work of other writers and gives them valuable feedback. This part of the course was very refreshing, and it allowed me to hear more general writing advice rather than being focused on Roxane’s pieces.
Drawbacks of Roxane Gay’s MasterClass
There are many things that I liked about this course, but there are also some things that could be a disadvantage for some people.
Strong focus on Roxane’s experience
Although this is not a disadvantage, the course revolves around Roxane’s pieces. While it’s common for instructors to use their own work as examples in writing courses, I find it hard to apply some of her lessons to my own writing practice.
Once again, this is not a disadvantage, but I also think her course might feel a bit distant for someone who, for instance, doesn’t live in America and doesn’t have similar experiences.
This could be improved by referencing her work in a slightly different way. For instance, she could speak directly to her learners more often. This way, she could keep the examples and stories but I, as a learner, would feel more included.
Lack of dynamic
Compared to some other MasterClass courses, Roxane’s course didn’t offer much dynamic and versatility. The setting was the same in all 1-on-1 lessons, and at times, I didn’t feel very engaged.
This doesn’t affect the content of the course, though, it’s simply something I noticed at some point during the course.
Review conclusion: Is Roxane Gay’s MasterClass worth it?
I think Roxane’s lessons are insightful, honest, and to the point. Although this isn’t the best writing MasterClass I’ve taken, I certainly don’t regret taking it.
Anyone who wants to discover more about Roxane Gay’s work and learn how to write about complex, sensitive topics would benefit a lot from her teaching. After all, she is one of the most prominent voices in contemporary feminist discourse.
Roxane’s MasterClass is a combination of standard 1-on-1 lessons and writer’s workshops where she discusses other writers’ work, and that compensates for the lack of dynamic in the course setting and structure.
It should also be noted that Roxane Gay has a course on Skillshare with a similar focus, but which is considerably shorter (and does not have the MasterClass production value).
Roxane is an experienced, eloquent teacher, and simply listening to her talk about her ideas is often enough. If you like her writing style and attitude, you will definitely enjoy this course. So, it all comes down to personal preferences and expectations.