Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay Review

Title : Hunger – A Memoir of (My) Body

Author : Roxane Gay

Publisher : Little Brown

Summary from Publisher :

New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and bodies, 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 casts an insightful and critical eye on her childhood, teens, and twenties-including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life-and brings readers into the present and the realities, pains, and joys of her daily life.

Review :

I have only started working my way through Roxane Gay’s work in the past few months. I read her novel ‘An Untamed State’ and thought it was fantastic. Then throughout the end of December and start of January I listened to the audiobook of Hunger which is narrated by Gay herself. I think it is so much more rewarding to listen to the author read their own work especially when the novel is a memoir and such an incredibly personal one at that. Hunger is one of the most intimately personal books I have ever read – Gay is unflinchingly honest about herself and others which makes the book at times a pretty tough read. The topics discussed are not always pleasant or easy but this brilliant woman’s thoughts are so important and completely worth listening too.

The whole book is about Gay’s body and how she and others perceive and respond to it. She has been a lot of different weights throughout her life ranging from skinny in her early youth to extremely overweight in her adulthood. She is also very tall. The memoir talks about what led to Gay’s eating habits and how her body has been shaped by the horrific act of violence she experienced at just twelve years old. She is brutally forthright about the circumstances and aftermath of her trauma and this makes for a very sad read but it is so vitally important for the reader to understand how an assault will affect the victim for their entire lives whereas the perpetrator often forgets quickly and with ease. It must have taken an immense amount of courage for Gay to look back and analyse such a difficult part of her past with such eloquence and grace and I admire her so much for that.

Another really interesting and revealing part of this book was the look at the way fat people are treated by the medical profession. It was upsetting to hear how horrible and prejudice some doctors and nurses can be about obesity and shows how overweight people are treated sometimes with so little respect as if they are less intelligent or less human simply because they have a large body. Gay also looks at how she is treated by her peers, family and strangers and her insight is so emotional and interesting. The chapters on airline travel were particularly distressing and I hope that some of the people who are guilty of body shaming will read this and hopefully adjust their attitude.

I really connected to this memoir, partly because of the way the author tells her story with no holds barred but also because I am certainly not skinny myself. I would never claim to have experienced anything like what Gay has been through as I am not hugely overweight but even just being a bit bigger than how a young woman is ‘supposed’ to look according to our society, I can completely relate to the anxiety and fear Gay sometimes feels due to her size.

This is not a hugely positive and sunny book, it is tough and harsh but it is so honest and it is not without any optimism or hope. Although still struggling in many ways as most of us do, Gay has achieved some measure of acceptance and happiness within her body. I would recommend this book to anyone and would especially recommend the audio version as Roxane Gay speaks her own words beautifully.

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