I first found out about this book just over a month ago via Twitter. And immediately thereafter I discovered that Roxane Gay was going to be in Atlanta on her book tour later that same week. Unfortunately I couldn’t go because of my teaching schedule but I quickly ran out to the nearest bookstore and bought Hunger.
I was already in the middle of reading It by Stephen King (and still am), but when I went to LA I decided to bring this book along for the ride. On the way there, I made it halfway through and decided to take a break for the rest of the flight so I could sit with it and the powerful quotes I had already read.
The first quote that struck me, that I had to write down, was on page 13.
This is what most girls are taught – that we should be slender and small. We should not take up space. We should be seen and not heard, and if we are seen, we should be pleasing to men, acceptable to society. And most women know this, that we are suppose to disappear, but it’s something that needs to be said loudly, over and over again, so that we can resist surrendering to what is expected of us.
I have discussed my issues with body image in the past (blog post here and video here) and this really hit home. We are exposed at a young age that beauty is greatly valued, and for many of us that can cause issues down the road. I fell victim to this belief too. I know I’m not alone in how I felt growing up as a teenage girl, but it is still refreshing every single time I hear about the same struggles from someone else, especially great writers like Roxane Gay.
Reading this book was a very interesting experience for me to see the other end of the spectrum on body image issues. I always felt the pressure to be skinner, to take up less space. Without giving anything way (you’ll have to read the book yourself to find out), Gay had a traumatic experience at 12 years old that caused her to turn to food for comfort and protection. She wanted to do the opposite, to take up more space, to become impenetrable. She wrote about her experience with such honesty and openness, both the event itself and how it has had a constant influence on her life since.
She goes into her relationships with food, romantic partners, her parents, and her career. And it always circles back to her relationship with her body and what happened to her. Everything in life is deeply connected and we all have hungers on different levels. Another potent quote:
My father believes hunger is in the mind. I know differently. I know that hunger is in the mind and the body and the heart and the soul.
I have been fascinated with memoirs over the past year, and this was one of the best I’ve read thus far. It takes a lot of courage to speak so openly about one’s body and because of her courage, I felt like I really knew and understood her. She is smart. She is quick-witted. She loves reading and writing. She pays close attention to details. She has tried running away from her problems. She is self conscious, just like each and every one of us. She has her struggles.
It was a great pleasure to be trusted enough to see this side of her, to see her vulnerability. I loved it, I appreciated it. It was a fantastic read and I was sad to reach the end. I think we should all aim to be as brave and dive into our hungers, understand them, and step into our own vulnerability.
Have you read Hunger or anything by Roxane Gay? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear your thoughts. You can buy it here.