Hunger by Roxane Gay was the sort of book that I read where I can’t say I loved it or hated it. This sounds odd being the memoir of someone else’s life, their truth, their trauma and their triumphs. I was impressed with the way she wrote so simply, there was no fancy language or grand imaging that accompanied her words. She writes as if she is having a long , drawn out conversation with someone, it almost reads like a journal entry. I can relate to this form of writing, where you are screwing with all the rules and not following some standard, where you jump around, pulling from all sorts of thoughts. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems.
As the title suggests, hunger and by extension food and nourishment are big themes. To take it further , there are different kinds of hunger Ms. Gay alludes to in her writing in my opinion. There is the hunger for food, hunger for safety , hunger for an escape from trauma, hunger as this being within one’s self that is never content. She makes clear throughout her book how eating is greater than about satisfying a bodily obligation or enjoyment of food. Her hunger is to make herself bigger, stronger , untouchable. She wants to put great difference between her present and the young girl who wasn’t able to prevent misfortune and violation.
Ms.Gay also writes in the tradition of the weirdo. The weirdo being someone who doesn’t really fit in with his or her environment ever and seeks to make sense a society that won’t accept them. She has grown to expect and cleaves to her differences as much as she can’t stand them as well. I get the feeling when reading Hunger that she is never really comfortable. And how can she be? At the heart of Hunger is the story of fat people. And fat people’s struggles to exist in a fatphobic world. The allusion of the body positivity movement, the intersectional weights of being Black, female and Queer as well as fat, the fear and hatred of fat people are all themes Ms. Gay talks about as well.
I’ve been bigger than average since I was about 5. I too have struggled with my weight and even today I am still sensitive about it. I haven’t reached the levels that Ms. Gay has described but I definitely know the feeling of food being a friend, of never getting enough, of feeling chronically uncomfortable and “un-womaned” because of my size. I know what it is like to hate my body and to hate my size. To feel it undesirable and offendable and something to apologize for. So reading Hunger is like hearing someone else echo things that I never was able to describe for myself.
Shout outs to Ms. Gay for speaking her truth. It takes balls to be honest about the most mundane and the most embarrassing and all those little ugly things that we are ashamed of. I love how she doesn’t make pretty her feelings. I love how she gives depressed without woe is me. I love feeling like after reading this , one’s right to be fat. And fat as an act of rebellion in a society predicated on self hate and inducing of shitty self esteem. Fat has a right and a place to exist. And more work needs to be done to combat one of the last seemingly acceptable forms of discrimination. Fat people are people too.