Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body – Roxane Gay

Hi fellow bibliophiles!

*trigger warning * sexual violence

As I’ve talked about, I hadn’t read a book fully in 2 years… No matter how many amazing books I bought/rented, I just could not force myself through them. I wasn’t hunting out Roxane Gay’s “Hunger: a Memoir of (My) Body”, but it jumped out at me when I was perusing the online options. I had remembered a friend suggesting Gay’s “Bad Feminist” to me years ago (I bought it, but have yet to read it). Then, once my small book haul came in, I again looked at my options and AGAIN Hunger jumped out to me. I’m so thankful I read this book at this time in my life.

Hunger is a book about Roxane Gay’s human body. This book was not an easy book to get through emotionally (I teared up on page 8), but it was easy to read. As a fat woman, this book resonated with me. As a fat woman currently struggling with her weight and self-image, it knocked me back. There were passages in this book that I honestly thought Gay plucked straight from my brain. Many, many of the challenges, concerns, anxieties that she talks about in this book I too struggle with. It was therapeutic to read these thoughts in a book.

Hunger is also a book about Roxane Gay’s past sexual trauma. Gay details the tragic events that occurred in her adolescence- giving her love to the undeserved, that person taking advantage of her, being raped, feeling broken and unworthy. She shares how this singular event had a profound and toxic causality on the following years.

Hunger is also a book about Roxane Gay’s identity. As a female in modern society, so much of every single one of our self-worth ends up being tied directly to the size of our body. At multiple points in the book, Gay points out that to be feminine is to be shrunk; we’re encouraged to be smaller, quieter, less seen, more submissive. So, as a very fat woman, where can we fit in? Gay tried to “hide in plain sight” by using muted tones, non-formfitting clothing, and even staying silent when her voice could have been heard. All efforts to shield herself from future harm at the hands of men.

To fully understand my stance with this book, you probably should know I am a fat-skinny-fat again woman. I have been in every single weight category you could think of (except “too skinny”). I’ve been told my BMI is too high since as long as I can remember. I have been fat shamed by doctors threatening to hold medications I needed if I did not lose weight. I have been mocked for my size. I have been on many diets. I have tried to learn self-acceptance. I have tried the “hard-love” to get thin. At one point just a few years ago, I had success in losing weight- 90 lbs! But the changes were not as long lasting as I had hoped. I’ve gained most of it back. I am currently a fat woman. I am currently trying to lose weight, but with a focus on just wanting to be as active as possible. It is a slow and daunting journey… one that apparently won’t start itself though.

So, here are my thoughts on the book!

I loved this book. There were so many deep and thought provoking statements throughout. On page 8, I teared up reading “There were a great many people in my own life who saw my body before they ever saw or considered me.” I felt that closely in my heart (especially feel it in terms of dating). She also wrote how she struggles with understanding why the condition of her body is not solely enough for her to want to make a change. I, too, have struggled with that self-destructive thought process. There were many, many profound moments in this book that had me shaking my head “YUP!” I enjoyed that. Reading a lot of those felt relate-able, but also it felt like a wake up call! Her self deprecation was a like a mirror turned to me. I was amazed how a strong, articulate woman can think so little of herself… but aren’t we all in the same boat? Diminishing our self despite being amazing humans?

What I probably love most about this book is that Roxane Gay uses her voice to not only try to get others to see how life is for those with “unruly” bodies, but she also opens the door for those with “unable” bodies. Being body positive has to be all inclusive, and I’m thankful she’s recognized that for this book.

I also liked that she talked candidly about her body. She spoke in a way I identify with. She calls the body what it is- a vessel for a soul, which happens to include fat. At the same time, she is acknowledges how words still sting and how “hard people” (but really sensitive with a mask) can still be hurt by the things people say. Throughout the book, it’s apparent that actions can also have a life changing effect on people. Towards the end she talks about who she thinks she could have been if not for the “good” boy/s that raped her. I saw these messages as warnings to treat others more kind.

There was only one aspect of this book that I didn’t love. Self-acceptance the the body positive movement are both so important. She does well with most of the book, but when talking about the other gym goers taking her machine I felt like it was fell into a “skinny-shaming” stance. We have all been envious of others, but the narrative of “why are they here” is dangerous. I wish that portion had been omitted, but I understand its to allow readers to see how deeply this all had affected her life and thoughts. This is why I was very happy she had the positive all-inclusive message at the end.

All in all, I would a million times over recommend this book. I LOVE Roxane Gay, as an author and a person. I have been following her on twitter and just love reading her witty thoughts and retorts. She is a beautiful, powerful woman and it’s messages like hers that I’m more than HAPPY to share!! So, please… get out and read this book! It’s amazing. It’s a message that needs shared.

REMEMBER, IT IS ROXANE WITH ONE ‘N’!!!! 🙂

Happy Reading,
LK

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