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'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 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.
Review by Emily Winter
Before you read Roxane Gay’s Hunger, ask yourself if this phrase is an uncomfortably accurate representation of how you see your life:
“What you need to know is my life is split in two, cleaved not so neatly. There is the before and the after.”
If the above resonated with you, then in the spirit of full disclosure, you should know Gay’s story is confronting and possibly triggering. I disclose this as someone who knows how trauma can impact the body, and the resultant way it affects our lives.
A fan of Roxane Gay’s essay collection Bad Feminist, I have been eagerly awaiting her memoir. And Gay has delivered in a way only she can.
Hunger is incredible. It is complex with its interwoven threads about leading a life with obesity, trauma and battling society’s standards. And yet, this is not a hard book to read. Gay’s writing is consuming, and I struggled each night to put it down. Her revelations regarding her past are delicately worded to ensure those closest to her understand her truths, without her having to disclose every detail. It’s a fine line to balance, and it’s a balancing act she has perfected.
Gay talks about society’s perception that if we were all thinner, we would be happier; that if she lost the weight, her life would have more substance. However, having said that, she does not belittle the health issues surrounding her weight, in fact, she admits to battling eating disorders, and confesses to dieting and considering gastric band surgery as a means of maintain her size. Gay is honest, and has a captivating way with words that one can only envy. I know I have taken a step back and reconsidered my perceptions of not just myself, but how we perceive weight as a society.
I had never considered the word ‘hunger’ as a concept, however it is a fitting word to describe so many fundamental feelings that we can all relate to. Its depth as a word envelopes the story of Gay’s life in such a fragile way, that the title couldn’t be more fitting.
Without revealing more, I would suggest keeping tissues handy as you read this beautifully written memoir. Expect the most welcomed sucker punch you will experience (so far) this year.
Number Of Pages: 288
Published: 13th June 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Edition Type: Digital original