An intimate and electrifying collection of essays from the New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Delights
In these gorgeously written and timely pieces, prize-winning poet and author Ross Gay considers the joy we incite when we care for each other, especially during life’s inevitable hardships. Throughout Inciting Joy, he explores how we can practice recognizing that connection, and also, crucially, how we expand it.
In “We Kin” he thinks about the garden (especially around August, when the zucchini and tomatoes come on) as a laboratory of mutual aid; in “Share Your Bucket” he explores skateboarding’s reclamation of public space; he considers the costs of masculinity in “Grief Suite”; and in “Through My Tears I Saw,” he recognizes what was healed in caring for his father as he was dying.
In an era when divisive voices take up so much air space, Inciting Joy offers a vital alternative: What might be possible if we turn our attention to what brings us together, to what we love? Full of energy, curiosity, and compassion, Inciting Joy is essential reading from one of our most brilliant writers.
About the Author
Ross Gay is the New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Delights: Essays and four books of poetry. His Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude won the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Award; and Be Holding won the 2021 PEN America Jean Stein Book Award. He is a founding board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a non-profit, free-fruit-for-all food justice and joy project. Gay has received fellowships from Cave Canem, the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He teaches at Indiana University.
“Stunning…Gay’s curiosity is present on every page and his precise yet playful prose sparkles…This resonant, vivid meditation shouldn’t be missed.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“This is instantly one of my favorite books ever. A wondering-aloud to which I will be returning often, and a brilliant manifesto making a case for joy as a thing which is as complex and rigorous as it is lovely and free. In that sneaky way Ross Gay has of lovingly disarming you before getting you to dwell in rooms of your heart you’d left vacant, Inciting Joy uses its titular emotion as a window into sorrow and rage, into gifts and loss, into the tricky business of being alive.”—Eve L. Ewing, author of Ghosts in The Schoolyard, Electric Arches, and Marvel Comic’s Ironheart series
"Ross Gay is as insightful and lyrical as an essayist as he is as a poet. His essays are as trenchant as they are moving, finding in the minutiae of life the grand themes of human existence.” —Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize-winner and author of War is Force that Gives Us Meaning and America: The Farewell Tour
“With language that skips along like a game of hopscotch, Inciting Joy promises to deliver heart-swelling insights into life, death and the joyful necessity of interdependence.” —BookPage (Most Anticipated Books of the Fall)
“Ross Gay's work throws off so much light, I've often wondered if it was powered by a superior energy source. He has done something new and beautiful with Inciting Joy. He has sunk a bioluminescent depth-charge into our time, one which peers into the whole sea of experience around us: revealing it full of connection, mystery and a longing for relief.”—John Freeman, founder of Freeman’s literary magazine and editor of The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story
“In this masterful, raw, and stirring collection of essays, Ross Gay has once again coaxed his readers to awaken to our full humanity. There is no way to dance through these vivid and skillful recollections of life’s truest moments—planting a community orchard, witnessing a loved one pass away, eating your first fresh fig—without emerging misty eyed at the hallowed beauty of what it is to be alive. Ross Gay helps us to understand that our joy and pain are fundamentally tangled up with each other, and when we can invite sorrow close to share a proverbial cup of tea, that is when our deepest joy is incited. In caring for one another, in paying attention to what we mourn and love in common, in emulating the generosity of the garden, in inhabiting our sacred and unpayable debt to the earth—therein lies our kinship and the possibility of collective joy and liberation. Inciting Joy will make you gasp in wonderment as your truest truths are laid bare, and you will go back and reread the lines over and over, whispering, ‘This, yes, this!’”—Leah Penniman, co-founder of Soul Fire Farm and author of Farming While Black
"Gay's poetically influenced prose is nothing short of joyful. Blending the serious and the playful, this essay collection incites joy with writings about a wide range of actions and places . . . his essays have a through line of offering the deeply personal and speaking truth to power . . . Gay's pedagogy, explained in detail, disrupts the systems that are baseline incongruent with joy, as does his writing, in every sentence."
“Warm, candid … breezy and soulful… A pleasingly digressive and intimate memoir in essays."—Kirkus Reviews