I have most of this book highlighted.
I really enjoy Gay’s writing. I think she is unapologetic and very honest, and it’s something I always appreciate. I read and really enjoyed her short story collection Difficult Women (more on it HERE). But I have never completely loved her work. Until this.
Hunger is Roxane Gay’s memoir that focuses heavily on her relationship with her body and her feelings about the way she looks and feels in her body. It’s also a testimony about an awful thing that happened to her. Gay was raped when she was very young and this book also chronicles how that affected her life and more specifically, her body and the relationship she has with it.
This is a deeply harrowing read. It’s so personal and difficult, so it’s hard to read at times. I had to put it down frequently, just to compose myself, because everything in this hit close to home. Gay’s writing is so wonderful and she is so skillful, that I felt every possible emotion. I felt shame and betrayal and sadness. It’s a book that will make you feel.
I don’t usually review through quotes, but I have no other way of conveying to you how this book made me feel and how good it is. So, here’s some of the stuff I highlighted:
To tell you the story of my body, do I tell you how much I weighed at my heaviest? Do I tell you that number, the shameful truth of it always strangling me? Do I tell you I know I should not consider the truth of my body shameful? Or do I just tell you the truth while holding my breath and awaiting your judgment?
There’s so much vulnerability here and also so much insight. Especially about the part of not wanting to consider your body shameful, but still, no matter what, feeling ashamed. It’s so smart and so very understanding of the nature of people (or more specifically, women) and how we perceive ourselves in relation to society.
I (want to) believe my worth as a human being does not reside in my size or appearance. I know, having grown up in a culture that is generally toxic to women and constantly trying to discipline women’s bodies, that it is important to resist unreasonable standards for how my body or any body should look. What I know and what I feel are two very different things.
This separation of the rational and the emotional is so poignant. I recognize that in myself all the time. Even if you know rationally that something doesn’t matter and it’s a societal construct, you still can’t help but feel inadequate in your own body. It’s exhausting and difficult.
I do now 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. It could have been worse, so much worse. That’s what matters and it’s even more a travesty here, that having this kind of story is utterly common.
This is what I was talking about. This sort of unapologetic and brutally honest way of writing is something that is specific for Roxane Gay. I think her attitude here is really commendable, even though I personally DO think that she is very brave and this book is a testament to that.
Regardless of what you do, your body is a subject of public discourse with family, friends, and strangers alike. You body is subject to commentary when you gain weight, lose weight, or maintain your unacceptable weight.
Again, so much poignancy here. The way Gay contrasts “your” as in your body, that is yours and yours only, to the fact that it is constantly subject to other people’s opinions and thoughts is so smart. And unfortunately, so very true. If you are a person who deals with body image issues, the LAST thing you want is other people commenting on it. As if you’re unaware or unconscious of this. And that’s what Gay argues next:
“…as if you are not only fat, but also incredibly stupid, unaware, delusional about the realties of your body and a world that is vigorously inhospitable to that body. This commentary is often couched as concern, as people only having your best interests at heart. They forget that you are a person. You are your body, nothing more, and your body should damn well become less.
Again, just the words she chooses are brilliant. Like “inhospitable”. I would never think of to say it like that, but that’s exactly how it feels. We as a society are incredibly inhospitable to bigger bodies. It’s insane. That was something that I often felt when reading this – that Roxane Gay is very good at putting feelings into words. And truth. All of this is so very true.
I’ll leave you with one last quote, one of which completely encompasses the way Gay writes:
Why do we view the boundaries people create for themselves as challenges? Why do we see someone setting a limit and then try to push?
Anyways, this was a really masterfully done book. It’s difficult and harrowing, but also incredibly honest and insightful. You need to read it. I highly recommend it.
Final verdict: 5 stars
If you have read this one, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also, if you haven’t, let me know if I’ve managed to convince you to do it.
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