Summary and book reviews of Hunger by Roxane Gay

Hunger

A Memoir of (My) Body

by Roxane Gay

Hunger by Roxane Gay
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  • Published:
    Jun 2017, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts

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Book Summary

From the New York Times best-selling author of Bad Feminist, a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself.

"I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. ... I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe."

New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and bodies, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as "wildly undisciplined," Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she casts an insightful and critical eye on her childhood, teens, and twenties—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers into the present and the realities, pains, and joys of her daily life.

With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and authority that have made her one of the most admired voices of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to be overweight in a time when the bigger you are, the less you are seen. Hunger is a deeply personal memoir from one of our finest writers, and tells a story that hasn't yet been told but needs to be.

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...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The titular hunger is metaphorical and stands in for many things, a hunger to be free from the trauma's long-lasting effects, the hunger to make better choices, to be normal (whatever that entails), to be happy, to be accepted. While Gay insists that her story is not one of triumph, and that she is not a role model, she doesn't give herself enough credit. Her candor is refreshing and commendable and other survivors of assault will certainly relate to, and perhaps find comfort in Gay's struggle. Those who struggle with their weight will also likely relate to Gay's story. But truly, everyone with a body and a history may easily relate. Hunger is an ardent expression of pain and longing, and a journey toward transcendence.   (Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Full Review Members Only (669 words).

Media Reviews

Seattle Times

Wrenching, deeply moving... a memoir that's so brave, so raw, it feels as if [Gay]'s entrusting you with her soul.

Newsday

Gay turns to memoir in this powerful reflection on her childhood traumas…Timely and resonant, you can be sure that Hunger will touch a nerve, as so much of Roxane Gay's writing does

Entertainment Weekly

The book’s short, sharp chapters come alive in vivid personal anecdotes. . . . And on nearly every page, Gay’s raw, powerful prose plants a flag, facing down decades of shame and self-loathing by reclaiming the body she never should have had to lose.

USA Today

Her spare prose, written with a raw grace, heightens the emotional resonance of her story, making each observation sharper, each revelation more riveting. . . . It is a thing of raw beauty.

Los Angeles Times

Bracingly vivid. . . . Remarkable. . . . Undestroyed, unruly, unfettered, Ms. Gay, live your life. We are all better for having you do so in the same ferociously honest fashion that you have written this book

San Francisco Chronicle

Unforgettable. . . . Breathtaking. . . . her breaking of her own silence, her movement from shame and self-loathing toward honoring and forgiving and caring for herself, is in itself a profound victory.

The Boston Globe

Hunger is Gay at her most lacerating and probing. . . . Anyone familiar with Gay’s books or tweets knows she also wields a dagger-sharp wit.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This raw and graceful memoir digs deeply into what it means to be comfortable in one's body. Gay denies that hers is a story of '"triumph,' but readers will be hard pressed to find a better word.

Booklist

Starred Review. It's hard to imagine this electrifying book being more personal, candid, or confessional. ... In 88 short, lucid chapters, Gay powerfully takes readers through realities that pain her, vex her, guide her, and inform her work. The result is a generous and empathic consideration of what it's like to be someone else: in itself something of a miracle.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Displays bravery, resilience, and naked honesty from the first to last page. ... Stunning ... essential reading.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. An intense, unsparingly honest portrait of childhood crisis and its enduring aftermath.

Author Blurb Ann Patchett
It turns out that when a wrenching past is confronted with wisdom and bravery, the outcome can be compassion and enlightenment—both for the reader who has lived through this kind of unimaginable pain and for the reader who knows nothing of it ... Hunger is an amazing achievement in more ways than I can count.

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Beyond the Book

Obesity and Childhood Trauma

In Hunger, Roxane Gay associates her ongoing struggle with obesity to the rape she endured at age twelve. Psychological studies indicate that she is not alone. Dr. Vincent Felitti of the Kaiser Permanente Department of Preventative Health in San Diego has been tracking this connection since the 1980s and has found ample evidence that there is a correlation.

Felitti stumbled upon this connection by accident while conducting a weight loss trial. Individuals involved with the trial were put on a strict regimen of fasting, some for upwards of a year, and the results were astonishing, participants lost between 50 and nearly 300 pounds. Many had trouble keeping the weight off, however, or they quit the trial early despite its overwhelming ...

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