Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay was one of my most anticipated books this year, and I was very excited to see that it was on sale on Kindle a couple of weeks back.
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.
It is very difficult to do a review of a book like this, simply because it is such a personal narrative. I feel almost like a review is a very presumptuous thing to do – and honestly, I’m not sure what exactly I can say. Hunger was an amazingly painful book to read, and, I can only imagine, an even more painful one to write. It talks about race, weight, sexual assault, Gay’s specific cultural background, sexism, and many other extremely important topics. (Needless to say there are all the trigger warnings for this book.)
One of the most arresting things about this book is that this is not a recovery story, or a success story, or anything like that. It is just a story of a woman, and her experiences as a ‘super morbidly obese’ person. I found all of her thoughts about fat positivity fascinating:
To be clear, the fat acceptance movement is important, affirming, and profoundly necessary, but I also believe that part of fat acceptance is accepting that some of us struggle with body image and haven’t reached a place of peace and unconditional self-acceptance.
Gay is unafraid to be absolutely raw and honest in this book, in a way that I honestly don’t think I’ve ever read before, even in the most soul-bearing of memoirs. She tells readers things that she hasn’t even told her own family – indeed, she reveals that until Bad Feminist was released, her family had no idea she had been a victim of sexual assault.
This was differently written than any of the other books I’ve read by Gay. It’s much more stream of consciousness than other groups of essays, such as Bad Feminist. I can completely understand why, given the nature of the book. It feels like you’re reading her diary, or are sitting in on a stream of consciousness therapy session. However, this did cause it to become a little repetitive at times, and the chapters are sometimes a little too short. This was the one downside to this book, for me.
This is not an easy book by any stretch of the imagination. It is necessarily messy and personal, and exactly what the world needs.