Author: Roxane Gay
Publish Date: 2016
# of Pages: 320
(From Amazon.com) From the bestselling author of Bad Feminist: a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself
“I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.”
In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.
With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.
Hunger is a memoir by Roxane Gay, featuring and starring her body and life as a super morbidly obese (>50 BMI) female living in the United States. Gay is very transparent in her memoir, sharing intimate and heartbreaking details about the root cause of her weight gain and how the extra weight makes her feel safe. Her memoir stretches back to her early childhood and ends with her life today, discussing her success as an author and the challenges she continues to face.
While I liked the book overall, I feel like I’m in the minority in that I didn’t love it. I struggled with parts of it. On one hand, I applaud Gay for the raw and honest view into her life. She doesn’t hold back and unabashedly puts herself out there for her reader’s scrutiny. Gay has overcome an unfortunate deck of cards and built a life of success from them. That takes serious grit and strength of character. Gay’s memoir proves that she’s a very strong and capable woman.
On the other hand, parts of the memoir felt repetitive and other parts felt defensive and combative. In nearly every conversation in the book, she seemed ready to jump down someone’s throat for saying the wrong thing. There was also a theme of resentment woven into the memoir of slender-bodied people and a disgust for when people and places couldn’t cater to a woman of her size.
To the last point, I looked up the stats on super morbid obesity, because I honestly wanted to know: is the population of those with BMIs greater than 50 so great that restaurants and businesses really should be making concessions to accommodate this population? According to Howard University Population, the United States has around 50,000 people who fall into the super morbidly obese category. That’s 0.0002% of the population. I can definitely understand Gay’s frustration with businesses (especially in the clothing category) not being able to accommodate her, but at the same time, businesses are out there to make money. They’re going after the majority of the population, not the minute minority. That’s reality. So this was a definite struggle for me. Yes, I would be very frustrated with the lack of accommodation if I were her, but at the same time, I’m not sure I would assume everyone should accommodate me? We don’t make door jambs and ceilings taller to accommodate the 7ft+ population. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking on this point, and I can never come to a definite answer. It’s a sticky one. I’m a big believer in inclusion—everyone deserves to be included—but what should a business be required to do?
Overall, if you’re a fan of memoirs, check this book out. There were a lot of great moments, and many, many people on Goodreads have given it rave reviews. It’s a memoir that makes you think.
- Inspiring. If you want to read about a strong woman, then this is the book for you. Gay is tough. Life has knocked her down, but she doesn’t quit, and that is truly inspiring.
- Transparent. Gay is completely and utterly transparent in her memoir. It’s almost as if you’re reading her diary. It’s impressive how much of herself she’s shared with the world.
- Quick read. This book was a quick read. It’s divided into many small chapters, which I don’t always like, but it worked really well in this memoir.
- Not your typical memoir. In Gay’s memoir, it doesn’t end with “and they all lived happily ever after.” This isn’t a Cinderella story. Gay ends the memoir in a good place–she likes herself, but she admits that she’s still not where she wants to be. She’s successful but not perfect.
- Repetitive. Sometimes I felt like I was reading the same things over and over again. One phrase in particular became like nails on a chalkboard towards the end of the book: “I don’t know. Or I do.”
- Defensive and combative. Parts of the book came off as defensive and combative. Some people might not even notice it (or care), but I found it irritating to read.
“Sometimes we try to convince ourselves of things that are not true, reframing the past to better explain the present.”
“That was the first time I realized that weight loss, thinness really, was social currency.”
“In our culture, we talk a lot about change and growing up, but man, we don’t talk nearly enough about how difficult it is. It is difficult.”
“The older I get, the more I understand that life is generally the pursuit of desires. We want and want and oh how we want.”
Check this book out at your local library, or buy it here* on Amazon.
*Note: this is an affiliate link