Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

“The story of my body is not a story of triumph.”

Hunger is not a weight-loss memoir but therein lies its power. It is Roxane’s struggle with her “unruly body and unruly appetites” that I connected with. Reading this book was a deeply personal experience. Often, Roxane articulated the exact thoughts and feelings I have had as an overweight person.

When you are overweight, people feel they have the right to comment on your body, to speak authoritatively on it. Like my uncle who I hadn’t seen in years who told me, in lieu of a greeting: “You have to do something about your body size.” I know this commentary isn’t restricted to the overweight and there are thin people who are judged too. Body shaming in any form is wrong. Imagine if just by looking at someone you could see they were jealous or selfish or cruel. But such flaws cannot be seen just by looking.

“I know what it means to hunger…I know that hunger is in the mind and the body and the heart and the soul.”

The source of that deep hunger is complex and unique to each person. But “people see bodies like mine and make their assumptions.” They assume that overweight people must be indulging at every opportunity, that they are unable to exercise even a shred of self-control. But like Roxane: “I deny myself so much and it is still not enough.”

I am tired of apologising for my body. “I am hyperconscious of how I take up space…as if I have less of a right to be in the world than anyone else.” But when someone bumps into me, most of the time they don’t care – it’s as if it’s the price I have pay for my body. As an overweight woman, society tells me that I should have a pretty face or be funny or be silent. I should be trying to make my body more palatable.

But I am more than my body.

One of the things that makes me feel really good, has nothing to do with my body. It is when I do something that reaches someone, when I truly connect with another person, even in the smallest way. When I leave this earth, it will not be my body that will be my legacy.

This book is for anyone who has ever hungered for something. Roxane’s story is raw and painful but it gave me hope. I don’t mean hope that Roxane or I or anyone else will lose weight. But a hope that comes from feeling seen and understood.

This story is a story of triumph because Roxane is still here, living in the world and creating. Creating words with an honesty and beauty that reaches people. And Roxane created this incredible book, living in the body she has now. Not the body she had before and not the body she may have in the future.

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