Thursday, 7 June 2018

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

I was swallowing my secrets and making my body expand and explode. I found ways to hide in plain sight, to keep feeding a hunger that could never be satisfied — the hunger to stop hurting. I made myself bigger. I made myself safer.

This extraordinary memoir gives a timely reminder never to judge another human being by their appearance, with or without knowledge of their life experiences. Roxane Gay is an American writer who has written several books of both fiction and non-fiction, and is prolific on social media networks as well as being the first black woman to write for Marvel comics.

In Hunger, Gay documents her life as a morbidly obese woman. She deliberately overate as a self-protection strategy after being raped at 12 years of age by a group of boys, one of whom was well known to her. At the beginning of Hunger, Gay reveals she weighs over 260 kg as she checks in (and then is treated so badly she leaves) for gastric banding surgery.

Gay describes in heart-breaking detail the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder which she has suffered from since the rape. These surface when she has lost weight, leading to self-sabotage as the thought of being of ‘normal’ weight and therefore seen by society as more attractive and desirable, are too much for her to bear.

At times I found Gay repetitive; but I do wonder if this was used as a deliberate stylistic tool to reiterate her relentless pain of trauma and judgement.

I was interested to watch Roxane Gay on a YouTube clip talking about her books. She is incredibly engaging, softly spoken, full of humour, articulate and intelligent. And then I read the comments section. Big mistake. Just vile and distressing (not all of them, but sadly most of the comments by males). These are the kinds of comments Gay has had directed at her all of her adult life, and yet with grace and wisdom Gay gives us all life lessons:

Living in my body has expanded my empathy for other people and the truths of their bodies. Certainly, it has shown me the importance of inclusivity and acceptance (not merely tolerance) for diverse body types.

Reviewed by Katrina

Catalogue link:  Hunger

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