Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Hunger by Roxane Gay

Hunger by Roxane Gay
Read by Roxane Gay
Published June 2017 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: audiobook checked out from my library

Publisher's Summary:
“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 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:
"It turns out that when a wrenching past is confronted with wisdom and bravery, the outcome can be compassion and enlightenment—both for the reader who has lived through this kind of unimaginable pain, and for the reader who knows nothing of it. Roxane Gay shows us how to be decent to ourselves, and decent to one another. HUNGER is an amazing achievement in more ways than I can count." - Ann Patchett
Yes, Ann Patchett, yes.

This is one of those reviews I struggle with, not because I have have mixed feelings about it but because I have so many feelings about it. "Mom" me wanted to take Gay into my arms to comfort her. "Fat" me could relate with Gay's pain about her body. "Lane Bryant Fat" me was slapped upside the head and told that she had no idea what it was like to be the size Gay is and has been, a size which makes finding clothes that fit almost impossible, even in stores made for heavier women.

A terrible, terrible thing happened to Gay when she was twelve years old. She never told her parents what happened until she began writing about it well into her adult years. She has never fully recovered from it. She began putting on weight to try to feel safe, to make herself unappealing to men who might want to hurt her.  But being fat has hurt her in other ways, from her parents' reaction to her weight gain when she went off to boarding school to the way society looks down at her for her size and her inability to discipline her behaviors.

In her forties, Gay is healing now from the trauma she suffered as a young girl and the many abuses she has suffered since then. She is reconnecting with her family and working on having healthy relationships. But the fact of her "unruly" body and that pain that is never far from the surface make this book a tough read. Gay is brutally honest about her own failings and about the failings of society in dealing with those whose bodies do not fit what we consider "normal."

This book will speak to those who are fat (Gay's preferred word) or who have suffered from sexual abuse and self-image problems. For everyone else, I only hope it will make you more empathetic.

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