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.
TRIGGER WARNING: child rape, fat shaming
Hunger is a book completely unlike anything I’ve ever read.
Roxane Gay’s latest memoir is a raw, poignant, heartbreaking and completely unforgettable tale in which she talks about how she was raped when she was twelve, and her never-ending struggle with body image afterwards.
I can’t really write much of a review for this, because it’s someone’s life story, but I’ll do my best.
Side note: I’m not going to summarize the entire story, just the main points of it.
We start with Roxane as a child. A few paragraphs of her family, likes, dislikes, appearance, etc. Then we learn how she was raped by a boy she thought she was in love with, and who she thought was in love with her too.
From then on, Roxane starts eating and eating. The phrase “comfort food” is applicable here – she eats to make herself bigger, to hide herself from the outside world. She moves to a boarding school, and when she comes home she’s much fatter than when she left (sorry, I don’t know the exact weight). Her parents try to get her to diet when she’s at home, but when she gets back to school she undos all of the work.
After school, we see her various jobs, as well as her relationships with both men and women. And always, always her constant struggle with her weight. She doesn’t become anorexic, but she does become temporarily bulimic… you have to read the book to find out more.
The writing is just on flique (is that the phrase?). It’s told slightly detached from the reader, and yet it still manages to convey Roxane’s emotions perfectly, and at the same time tell her life story.
I’ll warn you: it’s not a happy ever after.
Roxane didn’t finally change her mindset and “lose those three hundred pounds she’s always wanted to lose!”
There was no incredible trainer who helped her achieve her dreams.
She’s still fat (I’ll be honest), she’s still never fully recovered from the rape (but who recovers from a rape?) and she’s still eating… I’m pretty sure it’s the same.
And she hasn’t come to terms really with herself yet, but the book ends with this quote:
I was broken and then I broke some more, and I am not yet healed but I have started believing I will be.
I think that that’s beautiful. And not because she could lose some weight, but because she knows it’s possible to heal from the traumas in her life, and that she can repair herself, and try to move on.
After all, if life one must move on, for if we all never recovered from losses and traumas in our lives, where would we even be?
I’m telling you, if I ever meet Roxane Gay in person, I’m actually going to bow to her. She is completely and utterly an incredible person, and she deserves complete respect.