Hunger by Roxane Gay is a gluttonous book. There is no other way to describe it. Did I enjoy it? Not as much as I was hoping to enjoy it. It may have been because it’s a masochistic book without a deep, deep mind-gasm at the end. No deep epiphany for me. A lot of the book just sounds tragically familiar; I, too, struggle with weight issues. Roxane Gay rightly says, “People see bodies like mine and make their assumptions.” Despite repeated warnings, people often still judge the book by its cover.
Roxane Gay attributes her weight issues to her trauma; she was raped by school mates as a young girl. Not to give away the whole plot, but she muses about her weight and her hunger for 99.9% of the book. “They think they know the why of my body,” she states about others’ opinions about her weight. As a heavier-set girl, I often felt this was true. Skinny or fit people seem to singularly attribute fatness to uncontrollable or excessive eating. To a certain degree, what we eat does have a lot to do with weight gain or loss. However, there are a select few individuals who can partly attribute their weight issues to some other actual physical illness/syndrome, etc. In my case, I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) which makes weight control a huge challenge. (The book reminded me of a personal hidden quirk: I hate being lectured on how to workout my own body, as I if I don’t already know.)
Roxane Gay writes a lot about internal pain due to trauma. She notes, “It spreads through the body like an infection. It becomes depression or addiction or obsession or some other physical manifestation of the silence of what she could have said, needed to say, couldn’t say.” Silent depression. Suppressed depression. The writing process for this book seems almost like a form of purging. She eats and eats and eats: pain, food, toxicity. Then, she word vomits. At some points, I believe in her enlightenment. At others, I sense the self-perpetuated denial. “I don’t want to change who I am, I want to change how I look,” she writes. But, that is an impossibility. Our physical appearance in many ways says a lot about our internal ecology. Something internal must change in order for us to change externally.
And, let’s not forget that psychological states may not always correlate with our emotional states. We may be psychologically sound, but we may also struggle with deep emotional wounds. Roxane Gay, though sometimes sounding like a broken record, takes the reader through the gamut of issues connected to weight gain: eating disorders, bulimia, erasure of gender, sexual expression. I bitterly agreed when she notes, “Sometimes, I get so angry when I think about how my sexuality has been shaped.” When looking at the topic through the eyes of a researcher, I am astonished at how utterly sadomasochistic it is for everyone. Our sexuality is the locus of pleasure for us and no different than what a rat feels when given a piece of cheese after completing a maze with untold obstacles. Am I right or am I right? Anyway, Roxane Gay’s Hunger an interesting, queer read.
Gay, Roxane. Hunger. Harper Collins Publishers. Accessed on Hoopla on 26 January 2023.
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