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

          Is weight loss a social currency? Is self-worth and happiness inextricably linked to thinness and the less space we take up, the more we matter? Is the body the ultimate gage, determining whether we even deserve to live?

“I’ve decided that I will not allow my body to dictate my existence, at least, not entirely. I will not hide from the world (…)” 


         I’m neither used to read memoirs, nor particularly fond of them (in most cases they tend to bore me after the first fifty pages or so, with only my beloved Rushdie and Fallaci standing out from the mediocre crowd of mediocre, narcissistic writers), but with Netflix’s original movie “To the Bone” being all the rage now, among so many heated discussions on eating disorders, I wanted to experience something “deeper”, presented from a totally different perspective. Roxane Gay has not disappointed me. It’s mankind that keeps disappointing, even repulse me, and this book, whose author raises an objection with great mastery of storytelling, will serve as evidence of fading humanity among people.

        “The bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes” says Gay while recalling a myriad of episodes from her seemingly average, uneventful life, episodes that have made me scream inside and have provoked homicidal urges, episodes that reveal the impossible, unashamed cruelty with which she’s been treated by society. The society that measures your worth in inches, the space that your ass takes up and if it’s too big, if you do not conform to the rules, if you dare to stand out, you need to be shown where you (don’t) belong. You need to be squeezed so much as to fit into the brainless mass,  your body has to be reduced to its mere representative role and discarded if it’s not pleasant to look at.

         They will diminish your self-worth, mock you, snort with derision and it all results from the hatred they feel towards themselves. The hatred they decide, for some reason, to direct at you.

Because you dare to be different. To bother the world with your “unruly” body.

         The pain I’ve felt while reading this horrible, yet strangely beautiful, extremely intimate confession still lingers on and it’s excruciating. I’ve got so many thoughts running through my head that I feel like my brain was about to explode. It scares me, the extent to which I can relate to Roxane’s suffering, even though I currently weigh about one-fifth, or maybe less, of her weight, but the unhealthy, dysfunctional , obsessive relationship with food, the never-ending sense of guilt, the peculiar habits that impede you, strip you of the joy of life, the constant fear of being scrutinized and criticized – these are unmeasurable and no scale will show you what’s going on deep inside a body, under the facade, no matter how ‘fat’ or ‘thin’.

         The author courageously gets to the very root of the problem and reveals what triggered her rapid weight gain that soon led to morbid obesity. It’s truly shocking to read how one dreadful episode from her adolescence brought a real tragedy and left an indelible mark on her soul. Unbelievable, the harm she inflicted upon her body, by making it bigger and bigger, so that she could seek shelter between layers of fat for fear of being hurt again… Disturbingly palpable, the torment she’s been going through ever since, condemned to never-ending hunger, for love, acceptance, empathy. The hunger that no food would ever be able to satiated.

        If you have ever laughed at an obese person and secretly, or openly, claim that “they had it coming” for their love of food, please do spare a couple of hours and read Roxane Gay’s memoir. And when you’re done, I very much hope you’ll choke on your dinner.

To sum it all up, let me just share this very nice song:

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Language: English

Read in: English

Format: Kindle

Date read: July 2017

Author: la_bambola

Name’s Patricia, but you can call me Pati. Or Pat. As you like it. la_bambola, because of Patty Pravo. “Cerca trova”. Because I constantly seek. Purpose, happiness, motivation. The lost joy of life. And I find. The sheer excitement of starting a new book, intoxication with words. The beauty of art in its various forms. The simple pleasure of catching those fleeting moments. The fulfillment in making them meaningful. Who am I? A simple, yet no ordinary girl. Fighting with her demons, trying to find her place in the world. Currently working in an IT company. Passionate about books, languages, travels, sometimes drawing portraits and never saying no to good movies or engrossing tv shows (even if I’m very selective, it’s just that I do value my time). Fascinated by the mesmerizing, exotic land of India, its culture, colours, literature, language and cinematography.

3 thoughts

  1. “If you dare to stand out, you need to be shown where you (don’t) belong” – I have to admit to feel like that most of my life, even though in my case it’s not weight-related. It’s in general problem of a society as a whole of constant judgement and establishing farcical standards anyone can rarely match. I can’t pretend to have read as much on the topic as you did, yet, you gave me something to think about.
    BTW, I really appreciate your style and encourage you to keep up the good writing! Inspires me too to maybe get my a** back to writing fiction novels.
    Plus, I’m intrigued how are you gonna respond to Kafka on the Shore (cool you have Goodreads widget!), because I had mixed feelings about that one. It’s not one of my favorites, but it’s quite weirdly nostalgic and I remember feeling like a teenager lost in a fog on a way home during the read.
    Cheers 🙂


  2. Yeah, I guess we both know how hard it is to differ, purposefully or not… It seems like the society would like everyone to be exactly the same , but what for? Isn’t variety beautiful and interesting? I’ll never get that.

    Thank you so much for encouraging me to write, although you’re probably just being kind, because you like me! 😉 Still, it keeps me motivated, knowing that there are people who read my rubbish ;*

    PS: As for Kafka, you already know the (rather unfortunate) outcome of our ‘encounter’… 😉


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