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.
Author: Roxane Gay
“My father believes hunger is in the mind. I know differently. I know that hunger is in the mind and the body and the heart and the soul.”
Hunger is a raw, real, scorching work. Roxane Gay is a masterful writer, and she invites readers into the depths of her soul with grace—angry, honest, welcoming grace.
In the book, Roxane focuses on two things: her experiences as a person who is/has been super-morbidly obese and the circumstances that led her to become so. She tells us of a childhood destroyed by sexual violence and her journey to become safe from future harm by making her body large, strong, and undesirable. She talks about the shame and confusion her weight gain caused in her family and the debilitating pressure of her secret pain.
“As a woman, as a fat woman, I am not supposed to take up space. And yet, as a feminist, I am encouraged to believe I can take up space. I live in a contradictory space where I should try to take up space but not too much of it, and not in the wrong way, where the wrong way is any way where my body is concerned.”
Then she talks about the conflicting feelings she has about her body; as a feminist, she believes many things about self-acceptance, body positivity, and beauty standards. But as a human being in this world, she also wants to conform to those beauty standards (at least to a degree). This is a juxtaposition I think about a lot myself, although as an athletic white woman, I certainly have significant privilege when it comes to the way society sees my body.
I listened to this one as an audiobook, and Roxane herself read the narration, which I find always adds so much to memoirs. In the end, I couldn’t give this book anything other than 5/5 stars because of its honesty, its vulnerability, and the impactful writing that hit me right in the gut.