Debuted: June 22 2017
Roxane Gay’s Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (Harper, 320 pp., ***½ out of 4 stars) is a story about craving, but not for what you think.
This wrenching work, in which Gay peels back the layers to reveal the trauma that led her, at her heaviest, to weigh 577 pounds, is a yearning to be unburdened of secrets. It is an aching to be valued by those who cannot see beyond a body. It is a thirst for a culture that might encourage each of us to feel comfort in whatever body we are in — a culture that does not exist.
Gay takes us on a journey in which we learn what it is to exist in a society that accuses you of taking up too much room, even as it refuses to yield a place for you. There is the anxiety about whether there will be stairs to climb at a speaking engagement, or chairs so small and tight that they make your knees swell. There is the humiliation of a doctor’s visit, where your very being is regarded as evidence of sickness, and employees who are supposed to be professional can barely hide their pity or disdain.
And there is the bitter truth that while we are so much more than our physical selves, our bodies may also reflect all that we have endured.
An acclaimed fiction writer and essayist, Gay (Bad Feminist) tells us of the violent act committed against her as a child that forever alters her body and life. Her spare prose, written with a raw grace, heightens the emotional resonance of her story, making each observation sharper, each revelation more riveting, and also sometimes difficult to bear.
We can relate to Gay’s story, because you don’t have to be declared “super morbidly obese’’ to have been affected by our culture’s obsession with skinniness or made insecure by the billion-dollar industry that bombards us with the idea that being slim will set you free.
And at a time when young African…