Review: Hunger

Photographer: Julia Faragher

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body

Genre: biography

Author: Roxane Gay

Published: 2017

CW: This book should be avoided by all readers struggling with an eating disorder, regardless of whether it is of a restrictive nature or bingeing/purging. It also contains rather graphic descriptions of rape and should be approached with mindful caution.

Roxane Gay’s autobiography recounts her struggles with various eating disorders, as well as her struggles assimilating into a world unwilling to accommodate her body shape. Her work examines the media portrayal and psychological implications of obesity from a primarily feminist perspective.

It is, after all, a profoundly intimate relationship and journey – discovering how to feed ones’ body, clothe it, sexualise it, modify it, accept it, understand it.

It is difficult to express how moved I was by this memoir, in which Gay struggles to reconcile her battle with her own body and the societal pressure experienced by all women to conform to a certain body shape. Brutally honest and self-aware, this is a woman baring her struggle with her body. It is, after all, a profoundly intimate relationship and journey – discovering how to feed ones’ body, clothe it, sexualise it, modify it, accept it, understand it. Gay expertly navigates these issues through a personal lens, as well as from a general societal perspective.

Alternating between social criticism and autobiography, Gay manages to not only speak of her own experiences but address a range of issues. This is not a weight loss memoir, nor a memoir of an eating disorder, nor a social commentary. It is the pure, simple truth of all the significant experiences an overweight female undergoes. Stripped clean of rose-tinted classes or normative suggestions, this is the literary equivalent of a naked photoshoot without retouching.

This book surpassed my expectations. The author’s skill and bravery combined lend themselves to a memoir that is as heartbreaking as it is insightful. I highly recommend it.

Reading time: Four days

Best suited to: Passionate feminists interested in media representations, queer advocates, those with an interest in memoirs and first person narrative structure, and anyone interested in the HAES (health at any size) movement.

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