Book Review: Hunger by Roxane Gay

I don’t remember hearing of Roxane Gay before April of this year. During my normal vacation planning, I was trying to determine if I could go to the Edinburgh Book Festival. While skimming this year’s program I saw her name with a description of her past work. I was intrigued and decided to pick up one of her books.

It was weeks before I actually made my way to the bookstore. Work was busy and depression was setting in after losing my Grandmother. All I could do was wake up, work, come home, eat, and go to bed. On a Thursday evening, I was set to repeat this pattern and I felt the weight of my grief closing in. I told myself I needed to do something, anything, and I decided reading was the best remedy, so I set out to find my solace.

Grief can make one less interested in life and reading books of a personal and heavy nature is probably not the best way to go during this time. For me, reading Roxane Gay’s memoir about her rape as a child and her subsequent decisions to eat for protection was shocking while also familiar. You see, I too experienced a trauma as a child. I am also obese. Although I cannot identify with every experience Roxane describes, I know what it is like to be invisible to others, to want to make myself smaller in a world that is not made for me, and what it is like to use writing as my tool to explore, create new worlds, connect, and at times overcome.

Roxane writes with poise and grace but the emotional grit is there.  She opens her life up to us to explore, ever so delicately. We become aware of where we place our eyes and how we use our words. She makes us stop and think about the world she inhabits and how different or the same it is from our own. Although my emotional state was fragile, I felt as though I could identify with so much of her life. But if I am honest, I know that my experience in life, the trauma and my obesity, cannot be compared to hers. Ultimately, what Roxane experiences on a daily basis is only what I imagine myself to experience which is sobering. She is sure of the answers to all of the questions I have daily about why a person is treating me a certain way.  As long as I wonder about the reasons behind people’s behavior in relation to me, it never has to truly impact my life since I can ignore my own questions as often as they are not answered. Knowing why you are being treated differently or poorly has an entirely different impact. It is not just a moment to moment or day to day experience, but the mind and heart are also affected.

Emotionally heavy would be the way some describe this work, but after reading her memoir I have to say it is perfectly weighted. Pain and honesty turn what is the story of a part of Roxane Gay’s life up to now, not into a sensational tale, but into a lesson in compassion.

I may not remember having heard of Ms. Gay before this year, but after reading this memior, she is someone I will never forget.

Note: The books I review are chosen by me based on my interests. Please visit your local bookstore to pick up Ms. Gay’s latest work.

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