Excerpt from Hunger by Roxane Gay, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Hunger

A Memoir of (My) Body

by Roxane Gay

Hunger by Roxane Gay X
Hunger by Roxane Gay
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2017, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2018, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

1

Every body has a story and a history. Here I offer mine with a memoir of my body and my hunger.

2

The story of my body is not a story of triumph. This is not a weight-loss memoir. There will be no picture of a thin version of me, my slender body emblazoned across this book's cover, with me standing in one leg of my former, fatter self's jeans. This is not a book that will offer motivation. I don't have any powerful insight into what it takes to overcome an unruly body and unruly appetites. Mine is not a success story. Mine is, simply, a true story.

I wish, so very much, that I could write a book about triumphant weight loss and how I learned how to live more effectively with my demons. I wish I could write a book about being at peace and loving myself wholly, at any size. Instead, I have written this book, which has been the most difficult writing experience of my life, one far more challenging than I could have ever imagined. When I set out to write Hunger, I was certain the words would come easily, the way they usually do. And what could be easier to write about than the body I have lived in for more than forty years? But I soon realized I was not only writing a memoir

of my body; I was forcing myself to look at what my body has endured, the weight I gained, and how hard it has been to both live with and lose that weight. I've been forced to look at my guiltiest secrets. I've cut myself wide open. I am exposed. That is not comfortable. That is not easy.

I wish I had the kind of strength and willpower to tell you a triumphant story. I am in search of that kind of strength and willpower. I am determined to be more than my body—what my body has endured, what my body has become. Determination, though, has not gotten me very far.

Writing this book is a confession. These are the ugliest, weakest, barest parts of me. This is my truth. This is a memoir of (my) body because, more often than not, stories of bodies like mine are ignored or dismissed or derided. People see bodies like mine and make their assumptions. They think they know the why of my body. They do not. This is not a story of triumph, but this is a story that demands to be told and deserves to be heard.

This is a book about my body, about my hunger, and ultimately, this is a book about disappearing and being lost and wanting so very much, wanting to be seen and understood. This is a book about learning, however slowly, to allow myself to be seen and understood.

3

To tell you the story of my body, do I tell you how much I weighed at my heaviest? Do I tell you that number, the shameful truth of it always strangling me? Do I tell you I know I should not consider the truth of my body shameful? Or do I just tell you the truth while holding my breath and awaiting your judgment?

At my heaviest, I weighed 577 pounds at six feet, three inches tall. That is a staggering number, one I can hardly believe, but at one point, that was the truth of my body. I learned of the number at a Cleveland Clinic in Weston, Florida. I don't know how I let things get so out of control, but I do.

My father went with me to Cleveland Clinic. I was in my late twenties. It was July. Outside, it was hot and muggy and lushly green. In the clinic, the air was frigid and antiseptic. Everything was slick, expensive wood, marble. I thought, This is how I am spending my summer vacation.

There were seven other people in the meeting room—an orientation session for gastric bypass surgery—two fat guys, a slightly overweight woman and her thin husband, two people in lab coats, and another large woman. As I surveyed my surroundings, I did that thing fat people tend to do around other fat people—I measured myself in relation to their size. I was bigger than five, smaller than two. At least, that is what I told myself. For $270, I spent a good portion of my day listening to the benefits of having my anatomy drastically altered to lose weight. It was, the doctors said, "the only effective therapy for obesity." They were doctors. They were supposed to know what was best for me. I wanted to believe them.

Excerpted from Hunger by Roxane Gay. Copyright © 2017 by Roxane Gay. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Beyond the Book:
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