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Book Review: Hunger by Roxane Gay

top view of a kindle on a lap with the cover of the book Hunger by Roxane Gay. Person on the sofa is holding a coffee cup next to it

Roxane Gay’s memoir Hunger is a startling, brutal, and deeply human account of her relationship with food. I found it to be an emotional read. It was beautiful, infuriating, heartbreaking, and incredibly eye-opening and powerful.

I followed Dr Roxane Gay on Twitter long before I read any of her books. Her observations, opinions, and sharp replies always fascinated me. She says things so easily, exactly, and fearlessly – things I wanted to say and in a way I would if I wasn’t scared of confrontations.

Hunger is the second book I’ve read of hers, and let me tell you, you need to read it. You might be one of the rare specimens who have a healthy relationship with your body and food. You still need to read it.

“This is a popular notion, the idea that the fat among us are carrying a thin woman inside. Each time I see this particular commercial, I think, I ate that thin woman and she was delicious but unsatisfying.” 

I love how she writes; her open vulnerability, and her strength. My heart breaks for the child she was, and for what she had to go through. I am amazed how kids learn to cope with trauma, slight or severe, in different ways. Then as an adult to recognise that trauma and choose to confront it takes another kind of strength. But she doesn’t stop there. She takes her life experiences and shares it with the world. That’s a whole new boss level.

This book is definitely not a how-to guide and doesn’t pretend to be. There aren’t chapters on how to know if your body is ready for certain types of foods and what to do if you don’t want to eat something; that’s not what this book is about at all. This memoir is simply the author delving into her relationship with food and her body, in a way I’ve never heard anyone describe before.

Our whole lives we’re taught fat is unhealthy and unattractive. We fear overweight people as if obesity is contagious and hope we don’t catch it. It was a big ah ha moment for me when I realised that the first thing women do when they meet each other is comment about each others’ weight. Why is it the first thing we notice about women? 

“What does it say about our culture that the desire for weight loss is considered a default feature of womanhood?”

It took me reading this book, at the age of 40, to realise that everyone navigates the world differently and most times we’re completely oblivious to people whose needs are different than our own. I am flabbergasted by my own ignorance.

“The bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.”

That quote just made me think of the countless women who shy away from doing things they want or going out in public because they’re tired of being stared at. Chairs with armrests can only fit people of a certain size. The pressure of eating out with people staring at you then your plate. Just ordinary things most of us take for granted becomes an ordeal because the rest of us are not sensitised to the points of view of people different from us.

No matter your size, if you find yourself thinking about your weight or body size, you need to dig deeper into your reasons for doing so.

“My father believes hunger is in the mind. I know differently. I know that hunger is in the mind and the body and the heart and the soul.”

I never want to pass down my body insecurities to my child so I am cautious about the words I use. But it is very difficult to control when others chide him for being too skinny (which he now thinks translates to weak). 

Is the 5-year-old magically going to start putting on weight by their comments? And if he does, won’t these same people comment about how big he’s getting? Why can’t we just let people be? 

If you are the one who is the biggest critic of your own body, let this be a reminder to give yourself some grace. 

Verdict: Must-Read

Note: The links are part of an affiliate program, which means that if you click on a link and buy something, I might receive a percentage of the sale, at no extra cost to you. 


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