Hunger A Memoir of (My) Body

Book Reviews / Thursday, August 17th, 2017

According to my electronic dictionary, hunger means a feeling of discomfort or weakness caused by lack of food, coupled with the desire to eat or a strong desire or craving.  I must say that Roxane Gay’s memoir Hunger A Memoir of (My) Body was named appropriately.  She has a hunger but so did I as a reader and lover of her writing.  I have to admit I didn’t love Difficult Women.  I couldn’t understand the emphasis on these lost women who found themselvesimg_4070 in the most appalling situations.  I kept asking myself why.

I have read all of Gay’s works, except An Untamed State.  It is the novel I seem to be putting off.  I have been anticipating its true life brutally; even more now that I’ve read Hunger.  Nevertheless, I will be reading it and completing Gay’s list of writing.  I feel that now having finished Hunger, I understand her a bit more and can bring myself to accept the brutality and authenticity of her writing with my eyes wide open.  Difficult Women presented me a real challenge, as did Hunger.

Hunger is a confession of sorts.  It discusses sexual assault and recovering from that horrible experience alone.  It also discusses being a big woman and all the challenges that she faces from society and family.  Gay gave me a lot to think about in this memoir – everything from fat shaming, to eating disorders, to dating, family, and more.  She BREAKS it down!  There were things she speaks about in Hunger that I can relate to because I am also a big woman.  When she said “It is a powerful lie to equate thinness with self-worth.” (Hunger, p. 135), I just wanted to rent a billboard and have that phrase written on it.

The best thing about this novel for me was its natural perfect progression.  It begins and ends with the right tone.  We learn quite a lot about Gay’s feelings on many different subjects and I commend her for her raw openness.  She is brave, yet vulnerable.  I couldn’t begin to imagine how honest this memoir was going to be.  She is unbiased and unabashedly honest about some of the deepest problems in her life.  Hunger is a way for Gay to exorcise those demons from her past.  I’d like to think this memoir could help some people out there to accept and understand themselves better and to get help if they need it.

“I am realizing I am not worthless. Knowing that feels good.  My sad stories will always be there. I am going to keep telling them even though I hate having the stories to tell.  These sad stories will always weigh on me, though that burden lessens the more  I realize  who I am and what I am worth.” (Hunger, p. 251)

I read this book while listening to the audiobook with Roxane Gay’s voice – stong, unflinching and expressive.  She manages to make the reader smirk and smile despite the seriousness of the memoir.  She even uses pop culture and real examples, in order to make her thoughts crystal clear.  I recommend listening to the audiobook if you’re thinking about reading Hunger.  I’d even suggest reading Hunger first even if you haven’t read any of her other works.  Watch the video below where Roxane Gay is interviewed in Australia about Difficult Women.  It’s EXCELLENT!  Roxane Gay doesn’t sugar coat anything and that’s what makes her so awe-inspiring.

My copy:  Hunger  A Memoir of (My) Body, Roxane Gay (Harper Collins), p. 304

My rating:  * * * * *

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10 Replies to “Hunger A Memoir of (My) Body”

  1. I have this on hold from the library and look forward to reading her non-fiction. I have only previously read An Untamed State, about which I have mixed feelings. It is definitely worth reading, but I had some misgivings while reading it. However, I am not sure if my apprehensions stem more from Gay’s writing style and some of the plot choices or more from my shying away from the brutality depicted in the book.

    1. Well I’ve ben putting that one off for a while, but now I think I’m ready. You definitely should read Hunger so that you can better understand where Roxane Gay is coming from. Come back and let me know what you think about Hunger once you’ve finished. Happy reading!

  2. I just picked up Hunger yesterday at the book shop. This will be my first Roxane Gay read. Actually I’m a little nervous that it will hit home too closely as I and my mom are both obese. But for that same reason I’m also super excited to start reading it.

    And thank you for sharing the interview link. That interviewer was amazing. I loved how they touched on such a wide range of things. I especially thought it was great advice when Roxane said don’t engage with certain people. Like the burden doesn’t have to be on ourselves to change people who refuse to see our shared humanity. That is such good advice for self-care.

    And I love seeing Roxane’s presence on Youtube. Like when she talked about Vanessa Williams being important in helping her to believe in black beauty. I think it’s important for me to see her in the public eye– to help me believe in big beauty. It sounds sappy to say that I suppose, but I really feel happy seeing her.

    1. Yeah that really spoke to me when she brought up Vanessa Williams too. I remember how proud I was when she won. I linked it because I felt the interview was genius and could let people see how Roxane Gay is – funny, intelligent, quick-witted. She’s a trip on Twitter. If you’re not following her over there you should.

  3. I follow you on the Tube so how did I forget that you also have a blog, Didi. I just followed!
    I have yet to read anything by Roxane Gay but I am putting her on my September TBR. I love your review and it’s time for me to experience her writing myself.

    1. Hi and thanks for following me on here. I’ll be making more of an effort to separate my time between here and YouTube. As for Gay , she’s a must read. Starting here will definitely give you some insight into the woman and of course into her writing.

  4. Great review! I too have read all of her books except Untamed State, and I’ve also felt like I have been putting it off. I know it’ll be a hard read but I feel such a loyalty to Roxane Gay now that I must read it. I finished Hunger less than a week ago and it’s affected me deeply – I’ve thought about it several times a day since reading it. It’s rare to encounter a memoir written with such raw courage. Not to mention her beautiful way with words. She’s a gift to humanity and I hope she keeps writing for a very long time.

    1. I’m going to have to second this comment. Hunger is definitely a memoir that has stuck with me too. Same for me, I think about it regularly. She’s a genius and a wonderful way with words.

  5. *waves* New follower here
    I read an Untamed State and, broke me. I appreciate Gay’s writing style because life is brutal and unfair sometimes and for many people. I think my visceral reaction to the book made me more human.

    Thanks for what you do, I love reading but haven’t done much of it in the last few years. I will buy Hunger on Audible and look forward to reading your other reviews!

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