Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Bodyby Roxane Gay Published 13 Jun 2017
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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: A Memoir of (My) Body" Reviews
Roxane Gay, thank you.
Unflinching honesty, ugly and beautiful truth. Reading Roxane Gay's memoir Hunger is at once a difficult, intimate endeavor, but the sheer power of Gay's blunt, unsparingly honest prose made this a single sitting read for me, gobsmacked by her willingness to reveal the depths of her pain, her rage, her hope, her insecurities, her jealousy, and her hunger for so many things in this world, some attainable and some tantalizingly out of reach due to physical, cultural, societal, or self imposed limitations. This is a memoir of Gay's body, but she does in his memoir what she asks, begs, demands, fears, hungers for: the reader must see her body, indeed through her eyes we for a moment can feel what it is to inhabit her body, but the reader is also confronted with the nuance and complexity and intelligence and whirlwind of thoughts and desires and emotions that Gay is just as much as her body, and that too often has been stripped away from her in terms of how modern American culture views a woman of size.
And as specific as it is, this immersal into the mind and heart and body of Gay, there is so much here that resonates and reverberates loudly, into the collective experience, the female experience, the black experience. There is so much at work here: rape, trauma, alienation, sexuality, familial relationships, the myriad sides and natures of America and how its people deny and demean (but also embrace and love). And perhaps I may have more in common with Gay than the average reader or even if I don't, perceive a closer kinship - biracial, 5' 10", boarding school kid, in my adult years always tending heavier than I'd (and my family) would like me to be and the requisite concern and veneration of thinness=happiness that comes with that. Gay's ability to probe into the parts of herself she keeps hidden or submerged and bring that multitude of passion and feeling to the surface is incredibly moving, and at least for me, I was able to revel in and admire her honesty while also being forced to consider my own (or lack of it), truths about my complicity in terms of being part of a culture that simultaneously erases fat people but also can't help but accost them and reduce them to sheer mass and BMI and numbers on a scale, truths about how I often elevate the needs and desires of others far above those of my own and deny myself the power and importance of my hunger. I'm not a usually a memoir reader, but the ones I love best achieve this fantastic union of individual and universal. On the side of the individual story, there is specificity and intimacy and honesty; on he side of the universal, there is application for a new way of evaluating the world around you, a new way of understanding, a new perspective to consider. Gay's Hunger did all of those things, but for me struck personally, I felt how she felt and also felt my own feelings, I watched her rage and grieve and fear and felt my own rage and grief and fear. And the power of her honesty in writing this book has at least given me some courage or strength to be honest in my review of her work, even if I cannot yet be as honest about myself.
I'm just a girl on Goodreads, and I'm nowhere near as willing to be publicly honest as Gay, but in reading Hunger I couldn't help but be bowled over, experiencing her story and her life, watching her contextualize her experience and evaluate where all of us stand in being complicit with the inequities and indignities of the society we're all part of, letting Gay's sharp, blunt truth penetrate parts of myself I don't surface and force or prompt self-examination. I think Hunger will appeal widely, hitting for fans of Gay's previous work and for those memoir type readers who are ok with an uncomfortable, challenging, honest experience getting into the skin and mind and heart of someone else. For me, this will be one of the most powerful and transformative and necessary reads of 2017. 5 stars, given with a lump in the throat and watery eyes and feeling both full and drained after reading and processing and reviewing.
-received an ARC on edelweiss thanks to Harper Collins
“I do not want pity or appreciation or advice. I am not brave or heroic. I am not strong. I am not special. I am one woman who has experienced something countless women have experienced. I am a victim who survived.”
This is one of the most powerful memoirs I have ever read.
I’ve realized that Roxane Gay is, while not my style as a fiction author, a fantastic author of nonfiction. Her stories are so emotive, so well-conveyed, so horrifying and so real. And most of all, so incredibly well written.
The writing here is just… it’s stunning. Roxane Gay seems to know exactly how to use repitition and exactly how to convey what it is to be in her place - emotions we’ve all felt, but maybe haven’t put to words. It’s horrifying and heartbreaking and beautiful, all at once. I listened to this on audiobook, and the experience somehow made it even more powerful. Gay’s narration perfectly conveys every emotion, perfectly conveys just how horrifying and hard to talk about her experiences are without melodrama or tears.
→ 🌺 let's talk empathy ←
I’m a little horrified by several reviews seeming to imply - or outright state - that Roxane Gay is making her problems worse by wallowing or by “refusing” to open herself to others - or even worse, that she is “choosing” not to heal. Roxane went through a horrible experience, and choosing to heal after an experience like that is work. The fact that she is working so hard at healing now is a testament to her strength. It is insane to me that anyone could read this book and have the immediate reaction “well, she was the one with a trauma-created eating disorder, so obviously she’s choosing not to heal!!” This response is horrifying and displays, in my view, a shocking lack of empathy towards other people. Or reading comprehension, for that matter; she is angry at herself for not being able to heal faster. I hate being this person, but: why are you all like this?
I am possibly just as horrified by a comment saying that “she acknowledges she wants to lose weight, but also blames society for treating fat people badly!” So maybe this is a shock to a few of you [I’d hope rather few of you??], but people don’t deserve to be treated as less than human because their bodies don’t look how you think they should. Basic empathy is actually a thing you should feel for people whether their bodies - which don’t affect you, by the way - fit your standard :)
Genuinely, if you wrote something like that in your review, you should maybe look at yourself. Examine why you felt so offended by Roxane’s criticism of societal systems meant to keep women with unruly bodies in firm self-hatred. I’d wonder why you weren’t horrified by her rape, by her own experiences, and jumped straight into "but why doesn't she just lose weight?" She's dealing with trauma and human empathy is a thing that exists. Jesus.
This is a book that deeply affected me and one that I’ll think about for years. Heavy trigger warnings for disordered eating, body issues, and sexual assault, but this one is so worth the read.
I haven't written this yet but it will be okay. Food is delicious.
UPDATE: I have created a Word File entitled Hunger_Book. I have copied and pasted many Tumblr entries into this file along with some ideas as to how to give the book shape. Food is still delicious.
UPDATE 2: This book is still in progress so your low ratings are funny. Is this a motivational tool? It's working.
People see bodies like mine and make their assumptions. They think they know the why of my body. They do not. This is not a story of triumph, but this is a story that demands to be told and deserves to be heard.
How do I even begin? If I could give this book a hundred stars, I would. And no, not just because it is important and it is heartbreaking - which it is both - but because Gay is one of the best writers I've ever known. The difficulty was deciding how to use quotes without quoting the whole damn book.
I was glued to the pages, completely rapt, as the author used words to create a plethora of emotions and reveal things about the world we live in. This is Gay's memoir from the time she was gang raped at twelve-years-old, to her later need to use food to build a fortress around herself, to her more recent life as a woman categorized as the horrendous phrase "super morbidly obese".
Mine is not a success story. Mine is, simply, a true story.
It is not a memoir that asks for our pity, or tries to manipulate the reader, it is simply a woman's truth. Gay's self-awareness is painful to read as she talks about experiences in narrow seating on airlines, in movie theatres or restaurants, or at events. The assumptions people make about her; the "concerns" for her health; the ultimate belief that as a woman, a fat woman, she just takes up too much space.
You can tell on the rare occasions when an author really lays themselves bare. Gay says the things that many are - for a whole variety of reasons - afraid to say. About rape culture, about fat people, about fat women, and about the fat acceptance movement. She says she prefers "victim" to "survivor" because she has been hurt and has suffered from what happened to her, and she doesn't want to turn into something more empowering than it actually is.
I do not want pity or appreciation or advice. I am not brave or heroic. I am not strong. I am not special. I am one woman who has experienced something countless women have experienced. I am a victim who survived.
He said/she said is why so many victims (or survivors, if you prefer that terminology) don’t come forward. All too often, what “he said” matters more, so we just swallow the truth. We swallow it, and more often than not, that truth turns rancid. It spreads through the body like an infection. It becomes depression or addiction or obsession or some other physical manifestation of the silence of what she would have said, needed to say, couldn’t say.
When she talks about the FAM, she considers what many fat-positive women and men are not supposed to say - that it is not a simple matter of deciding that one's fatness is okay and attractive. We do not live in a world that allows for that mentality to take hold instantly, no matter how much we tell ourselves that weight and size do not matter.
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.
It is an incredibly powerful memoir that is made even more so by the raw, uncensored truth Gay brings to it. Gay is not happy with her body, but also angry at the world for being a place that makes her unhappy with her body. She says she is not strong and that she is not brave, but I beg to differ. Writing a book like this in a world like this-- I'd say she's one of the strongest, bravest writers I know.
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I want to give this a million stars. I want to buy every one of you reading this a copy. WOW.
TW: Rape, anorexia/bulimia, fatphobia
This doesn’t speak exactly to my experiences—and I wouldn’t expect it to because Roxane and I have very different experiences and personalities—but regardless, this is the most validating book I’ve read to date about being fat. It might be the only book I’ve read about being heavy that confirms that I can be happy with myself just for me, not only when a guy loves me or if I lose weight. It’s as much about fixing harmful institutions of society as it is fixing our own harmful internalizations about being fat. I’m about to cry typing this just because it feels so goddamn good to read a book from someone who knows. Who has the same thoughts I’ve only ever written about in diaries and cried myself to sleep about but she voices so perfectly. Not fitting into chairs. Envying people with eating disorders but knowing how wrong it is. Struggling with how you want to look versus how society wants you to look, and whether you deserve, or can even achieve, either. Roxane wrote this for herself, but it's a book I think everyone should read, regardless of if you can relate to it. It's a necessary book and i'm so glad I read it.
This book is a masterpiece. I’m speechless.
I cannot jump on the bandwagon of this being a wonderful and empowering book.
Sorry folks but as Ms Gay continues to blame the world for her unhappiness there is just no chance for peace. I wish her the very best but I would not recommend this to anybody.