Book Review: Hunger by Roxane Gay


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.

My thoughts:

I had been wanting to read this book for a couple of years. The title and subject matter had me intrigued as a plus-size woman myself. I wasn’t familiar with Roxane Gay before I listened to this book, but I am going to be reading/listening to some of her other books in the future. As for Hunger, I have mixed emotions about this book.

My mixed emotions are not because I think this is a poorly written story. I keep calling it a story even though it is not, it is a memoir. It is the author’s truth and personal experience with life. Lately, I have really been into listening to audio versions of memoirs read by the authors themselves because I just love biographies and learning about people and individual psychology. Listening to Gay speak was fine. I thought she did a great job of telling her story. However, it is the story itself that I have conflict with.

Gay’s story is not necessarily a pleasant one. In fact, it isn’t for the faint of heart at all, especially if you have dealt with traumas similar to hers. It is difficult to listen to her describe the wrongs done to her body by other people, which led to the mistreatment of her body at her own hands, which led to her overall perspective about how society sees her and how she sees herself because of her body.

Going into it, I thought the book would merely be a reflection over being plus-size, however, Gay’s story is more sophisticated than that, as most of our stories are. I guess I regretfully thought the presentation would be more shallow. Then again, I wasn’t aware of who Roxane Gay is before this book.

I appreciate her story and her storytelling. It wasn’t like a cohesive chronology of her life, but pieces. As I was listening, I felt like she was reading a series of journal entries or personal essays, which I didn’t mind at all. I thought that she expressed herself clearly for the most part. However, there were times where she would introduce ideas or past experiences or personalities and then say that it was too difficult to speak about or that she just didn’t want to speak about them and I found that a bit annoying. She doesn’t have to speak about anything that she doesn’t want to. However, whenever she did that, I felt like I was being left hanging waiting for and wanting more details and would have to force myself to forget that she brought up certain things.

Some of her thoughts about society and human behavior I disagree with, but it was interesting to hear. Some of the thoughts and experiences as a large person I could directly relate to. I’m not super morbidly obese, but I have always carried extra weight and know what it is like to have to explain to some people that I can’t always move the same way that they do or fit in the same places.

Roxane’s story is not an easy one to consume. I can’t say that I enjoyed it—it is never enjoyable for me to listen to/read a description of a sexual assault– but it is one that I can appreciate. As difficult as it was for me to listen to in some parts, I imagine must have been even harder for her to write and relive. Overall, I give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

If you are interested in checking it out for yourself, I’d recommend getting it from the library. If you’d like to own a copy for yourself, you can purchase from Amazon*, Books-a-Million, & Barnes and Noble.

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