A Review of Roxane Gay’s book, Hunger

By Kali Nelson

A black and white photo of the author standing in between lots of chairs.
Roxane Gay standing in between some chairs.

“I often say that reading and writing saved my life. I meant that quite literally,” Roxane Gay.

Bad Feminist was the first time I had ever heard of Roxane Gay and I am glad it was not the last time. Hunger is one of Gay’s latest books, and it looks deeper into her past, her struggle with her weight, and the event that changed her life.

I will always have a special place in my heart for her, and I am always excited when I get to read something she wrote. She writes from a sincere place, and it shows in her work. She writes about what is true for her. She writes about her truth, which is combined with her feminism, and it doesn’t feel like reading a textbook. Hunger is a memoir of Gay’s body.  

I enjoyed this book; the sincerity that Gay writes with is refreshing and oddly comfortable. Gay talks about her past with humor in some parts and a sobering reality in others. She talks openly about her relationship with her body and how it is has changed and evolved as she has aged.

There is one part that sticks out to me. She writes of a personal trainer she has, who tells her of his diet, and she wonders if he knows about spices. Gay writes about pushing herself on a stationary bike at the gym because she felt, she was being judged by a woman on a different bike. So, she pushed herself until her legs were weak. She writes about struggling with her weight, the concern her family had, and how her relationship with food evolved.

 “This is a memoir of (my) body because, more often than not, stories of bodies like mine are ignored or dismissed or derided. People see bodies like mine and make their assumptions. They think they know the why of my body. They do not,” Roxane Gay.

Next, I’m going to be talking about rape, and I know that can be triggering for some. Please take care of yourself and stop reading if you need to.

She wrote about being gang-raped at 12 by a boy she loved. This boy who she calls Christopher takes her out to the woods and it is there with his friends that the gang rape happens.  She was naïve and didn’t know how badly men could hurt a woman, she writes. She recounts that she kept this secret from her family, not telling them until years later. But the kids at school were not so easy to hide it from. When the boy went back to school, he told about it but making her out to be the bad person. She was bullied and called names until she moved with her family.

Her weight gain didn’t start until she went to high school at a boarding school. She recalls how she spent all her money at the greasy spoon and then would go home over the summer and diet to ease her family’s worry. She remembers one summer where she went home and drank chalky milkshakes to lose weight.

She talks about her relationships she had before she began writing the book, the man she met playing poker while she finished her masters, the man in Arizona that she spent a year with, and the others.

Roxane Gay has written a book that portrays more than a struggle with weight and relationships. She has written a book that is shocking and needed. Society glosses over women’s weight and the reasons behind it.

We don’t think about how we focus on being thin and how women are forced into the thin model. Our society tells women to be thin and quiet, to not take up to much space. But Gay’s book feels like a bid to take up space, and it works. The book speaks louder than anything I could say on the subject.

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