Memoirs are about the author but I have to admit I spent most of Hunger thinking about myself. I don’t like having to say that – I’m a privileged white woman, stories like mine get told all the time and this was a story emphatically not about me and yet chapter after chapter I thought about myself.
As something of a Tumblr feminist, Roxane Gay was someone I was culturally aware of, but Hunger was the first of her books that I’ve read. She is an incredibly powerful writer who tells her stories in a blunt, beautiful prose that leaves no room for misunderstanding. This is what happened. This is why. This is what happened next. This is her story and you will read it and you will understand.
Hunger is about her physical body and the way it moves her through the world and the way the world responds. Roxane Gay is large black woman in an America that pretty clearly prefers its women white and thin. She has a lot to say about cultural ideas of beauty and how women are expected to physically shrink themselves to conform without a care for who they are. She tells her story of being brutally, violently assaulted at a young age and the ways in which she changed her body to protect herself from any further attack. It is gut-wrenchingly honest and heartbreaking and in a very few ways I can relate. I am a woman in America and I understand so completely the drive to be thin, to whittle down, the envy of girls with eating disorders because they had the self control to do what I only dreamed of doing. Hell, I’m 31 and I still catch myself at the gym going, “I wonder what it’s like for the skinny girls, to be here and not be here to lose weight.”
But this isn’t my story, it’s hers. And it is a story worth reading, whoever you are.