Hunger A Memoir of (My) Body

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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3 Book Reviews – The Face: A New Series

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Year of Yes

I was happily surprised when I was approached by a representative from Simon & Schuster asking me if I was interested in reading Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes in exchange for an honest review.  I couldn’t refuse.  I knew Rhimes’s book was due to be released soon and wasn’t sure if I’d be able to pick it up to give it a try.

Even though my work schedule has butchered my reading and blogging for the moment, I’m still managing to read a bit here and there.  Year of Yes was my latest conquest and it arrived 4 days ago and I managed to gobble up this 307-page book in that time.  My train rides back and forth to Paris for work helped tremendously in this IMG_2227attempt to finish reading Year of Yes in time for its release date, today the 10th of November.

Not knowing what to expect, the first chapter Hello I’m Old and I Like to Lie (A Disclaimer of Sorts) sucked me in immediately.  Rhimes’s voice rings through like a girlfriend in my head and I loved that.  Rhimes is one of the most successful television producers and writers today, with successful shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Private Practice, and How to Get Away with Murder.  Her shows have coined the phrase TGIT (Thank God It’s Thursday) on the ABC evening line up.  Rhimes is so successful no one is really sure what she’s really like.  With all that success you would think she was an  extrovert, self-confident, alpha female on the way to conquer all the time.

Well Year of Yes gives us an inside look into a woman who struggles just like the rest of us women with balancing work life and motherhood, trying to get out there socially when she’s an introvert (that I didn’t expect at all), trying to lose weight (which she’s done perfectly and looks FANTASTIC!), and to just say plain ‘ol YES.  “This Yes is about  giving yourself the permission to shift the focus of what is a priority from what’s good for you over to what makes you feel good.” (Year of Yes, p. 123)

This book is written in a way that we experience exactly what Rhimes says and can relate fully.  She also gives some great advice to all women of all ages.  She’s an intellectual creative woman who is a great example of how things can be done and saying Yes is a good way to do things differently.  Contrary to the way we as women are always told to say No more, this Yes approach is much more positive and inclusive.  Rhimes has had her Yes Year and will undoubtably inspire other women to have their Yes years.  This is definitely a book to check out even if you’re not necessarily a fan of her shows.  It’s just great to read about a successful woman and how she goes about navigating all that is demanded of her and how she maintains that success throughout all the challenges thrown her way.  So Yes to Year of Yes, in all it’s hysterics and seriousness. I give it 4 stars.  Oh and the book is a perfect size to carry around in your purse.  It’s small, cute, packaged to a fault, and you won’t be able to resist that beautiful picture of Rhimes on the back cover.  She really is wearing the Year of Yes smile.

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Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

Food glorious food!  I picked up Relish: My Life in the Kitchen after discovering it on Goodreads.  Being that I15786110 love food, recipes, fresh ingredients and cooking, I had to give this a try.  It’s a graphic novel depicting the life of Lucy Knisley through food.  She was lucky enough to be surrounded by a mother who was an excellent chef and a father who knows when he’s getting a good meal.  She was encouraged to eat healthy and was exposed to an eclectic array of food and cultures.  Relish consists of twelve chapters starting from her childhood to her years at university in Chicago.  At the end of each chapter there is a recipe that is straight forward and easy to produce, which consists of simple drawings and measurements.  It correlates to the preceding chapter.  There are recipes for sangria, guacamole, chai tea, pesto, mushrooms, etc.  This would make a lovely present for a lover of food and of graphic novels.  The artwork is excellent and it’s a fast read that you’ll want to take your time with.

Lucy Knisley is the writer and designer of quite a few other works such as Radiator Days, Make Yourself Happy, and French Milk, which 230px-Lucy_knisleyrecounts Lucy and her mother’s move to France and living in a 5th arrondissement apartment in Paris for six weeks, among other works.  French Milk is a travel journal that combines photography, drawings, and introspection.  Knisley is an American writer, comic, and musician, who studied art at The Art Institute in Chicago.  With her touching graphic novels about travel and food and her music and videos she has become a growing success online.  You can can learn more about her on You Tube at http://www.youtube.com/user/lucylou21?feature=watch and her blog at http://www.lucyknisley.com and http://lucyknisley.tumblr.com.  Check out the video on her tumblr where Mtv interviews her about Relish: My Life in the Kitchen.

Title: Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

Genre:  Graphic Novel/Food/Memoir/Cookbook

Published:  2013

Edition:  First Second

Pages: 192

Language:  English

My rating:  * * * *

+5,452

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qatydEg7muk&list=PL05CF76D66A2935CB]

43. I'm Down

I remember wandering around Borders a couple of years ago, on summer holiday in the States, looking for something different to read.  I ran my eyes along the shelves combing for a good book to read and I happened upon I’m Down.  The book is pitched as:  “Mishna Wolff grew up in a poor black neighborhood with her single father, a white man who truly believed he was black.  “He strutted around with a short perm, a Cosby-esque

sweater, gold chains, and a Kangol—telling jokes like Redd Foxx and giving advice like Jesse Jackson.  You couldn’t tell my father he was white.  Believe me, I tried,” writes Wolff.  And so from early childhood on, her father began his crusade to make his daughter down.”

“Unfortunately, Mishna didn’t quite fit in with the neighborhood kids:  she couldn’t dance, she couldn’t sing,  she couldn’t double Dutch, and she was the worst player on her all-black basketball team…..”

Reading this book infuriated me and made me feel extremely uncomfortable.  Her description of poor black people was stereotypical and put accent on the worst traits of this community.  I don’t think that all poor black people fight,insult each other, and neglect their children and I certainly don’t think it’s a howling laugh.  Unfortunately, those traits are accentuated through a good part of the book.  She makes it sound as if it’s the main reason for her problems.  Her real problem was her dysfunctional family.

In essence, her problem wasn’t fitting into the black community, it was her not having an identity of her own.  Her problem was with her father.  She just happened to be living in a poor black neighborhood.  Moreover, I’m almost sure that if a black person would have written this book, no publisher would have wanted to sign it on.  The attraction was mainly that she was white and living in this poor black neighborhood recounting so-called funny episodes of her life interacting with black children at school.

Wolff attempts to write about her life in a comical fashion, but I didn’t really find it funny at all.  If you decide to read this book, it’s basically a memoir about a dysfunctional poor, white family living in a poor black neighborhood.  White people may find this funny or interesting to read but as a black woman I find it slightly offensive.  It reminded me of modern-day blackface without the make-up.  For example at one point in the book, Mishna learns to “cap” (=insulting someone in a playful way) at camp and then she starts capping her father.  Her father was annoyed by it so he said, “I’m not about to take it from my daughter in my own home…..I take it from the Man everyday.” (I’m Down p. 33)  Really?  Ugghhhh!  There were a lot of other phrases and incidents in the book like that.  Another thing I didn’t like is the way she recounts the story as she’s nine but it sounds too much like an adult, although it’s quite clear early on she seems to be clueless about lots of things.  I rate this book a one star.  If you’re interested shes apparently planning to write a second part to I’m Down, which will begin where I’m Down left off.  I’m not sure about the release date.

If you’re interested in more information about Mishna Wolff and her story, watch the You Tube clip below where she’s speaking at a university in Florida about her book and life.  I found it a little painful to watch because she seems so awkward and strange.  Happy reading……

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0FgUATU8Jc]