Book Review: Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body 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.

I’ve heard of Roxane Gay – who hasn’t – but she isn’t someone I’ve actually read before now despite meaning to do so. So I figured why not.  I admit I was slightly hesitant in going in to this book because of my personal history. I’ve always struggled with food and my weight, especially because I’m so short. I’ve never been as heavy as Gay, but at my heaviest I was nearly 45kg (100lbs) overweight. I’m not much lighter than that at the moment.

I was anxious about what the book would bring to the surface when I read it. Despite being anxious, I pushed myself to pick it up and start and while it struck a chord with me in many places, I’m so so glad that I decided to go ahead and read it.

Gay talks about how after an event as a child she turned to food as solace in order to provide the satisfaction that she needed in life especially instant satisfaction. As someone who eats for that feeling, I empathised with her so much, though our reasons for doing so are entirely different.

The level of brutal honesty in this book is astounding. Despite all the punches to the gut I experienced throughout it, I couldn’t put it down. She has gone through so much and to come through it and grow as a person is amazing. The relationships with other people that she experienced who wanted to lose weight for various reasons was something that struck another chord with me. As she says, the world is fixated on the fact that you have to be skinny to be happy which isn’t the case. We might have reacted slightly differently to that advice but what they made us feel was the same.

It isn’t just fat shaming and fat culture that Gay touches on by also rape culture and racism and the reasons why she stayed quiet for so long. She didn’t think she’d be believed. Looking at the media today, I don’t blame her at all and I can’t even imagine what it was like back then when it happened.

While it is obvious that she is quite possibly still suffering from PTSD which is what turned her to food in the first place as well as other coping methods that could be considered self harm, she also made it clear that she has come a long way compared to where she used to be.

The level of honesty both about her life, her body and what happened too but also about how the world views her and other people who are obese, was intense. I’ve put off writing this review for about a week because I can’t do the book justice.


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