When she was 12 years old, Roxane Gay was gang-raped by a group of boys from school, one of whom was a boy she had sort of been dating and loved. After that, she set out to eat and eat until her body was a “fortress” that could protect her and couldn’t be hurt.
This was interesting for me to read because of the multiple lenses through which I was viewing it. There was the psychologist part of me who had a sort of detached interest in noting the effects of Gay’s trauma, though also still being very saddened by her experiences. There was the part of me who has struggled with food, weight, and body image issues and could related to some of what Gay talks about in a way that is at times comforting because of the reminder that I’m not the only one who has some of these thoughts, the silent commiseration, the frustration with how others view larger women.
Gay writes from a feminist perspective that I appreciate, critiquing the way society views fat people, especially fat women, and the way society can make it difficult to be a fat person (e.g., chairs with arms that can bruise). Gay writes about how her “unruly” body is both visible and invisible, and in a way she wants to be invisible but also doesn’t.
The writing is at times repetitive, especially in the beginning, but generally this didn’t bother me. I hope that some people reading it, the ones who may have overtly or even silently fat-shamed or judged fat women, will read it and start to learn how their behavior affects others and that there is more to fat people than just their size. For those who don’t need to learn that, it is the empathetic story of an assault survivor coming to terms with all that has meant for her.