Wednesday, June 21, 2017

#BookReview: HUNGER by Roxane Gay

Summary: “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.

Review: Roxane Gay shares a lot of herself, probably more than we as readers deserve, in Hunger. She shares the story of her rape in her early years and how it propelled her toward a life long affair with food. As the summary says, she intentionally ate to become larger so that her body would became her safe place. The problem with creating this space is that it can also become your prison.

Gay talks a lot about how her weight affects not only how she sees herself, but how others see her. From the not so discreet stares of others on the airplane when they're hoping that she's not about to sit next to them to the rude stewardesses that won't let her use her own seat belt extender, insisting that she use theirs instead "for safety purposes." People are careful not to make fun of or show bias to other groups, e.g., disabled, but fat shaming seems to be par for the course in America.

Hunger is highly relatable and I found myself nodding my head along with Gay when she talked about how we try to make ourselves smaller for other people so as not to take up too much space. Or settling for relationships with people we wouldn't tolerate under different circumstances, just to be able to say that you're in a relationship and someone wants to be with you. And even putting up with verbal abuse because you think you deserve it.

At times it seemed that Gay was repetitive in her story telling, but I wonder if that was intentional. Though I complained a bit about it, by repeating the message, she drives home her points. Telling her story, writing Hunger was hard for her. I know this because she has said so in interviews, likely because it's deeply personal and her scars are put on display for all to see. I'm grateful to her for being so willing to share just a bit of herself with us.

320 p.
Published: June 2017
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher; opinions are my own.

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