The July box of My Lit Box included Hunger by Roxane Gay. As I mentioned in that post, this is a book I’d already started on my Kindle but was having hard time making a real dent it. This wasn’t because the book wasn’t engaging – in fact, the opposite was true. You guys, what I’m trying to say is that this book ripped my heart out. And then it put it back together again. Well, sort of. This was a complicated book and I had a complicated experience with it.
The story is that of Roxane’s body. Her body is a large one. So is mine. Her body wasn’t always a large one, and in fact she can draw specific parallels between being raped as a child and losing weight. I was once in weight loss centered group therapy where the facilitator had us write down the major weight gains and compare it to major events in their lives. Every weight gain I’d experienced coincided with a different occasion of sexual abuse.
Gay speaks of her weight gain as a way to protect herself. A way to physically intimidate others and to create a literal barrier between her and others. I can relate to this. For me, it was also an attempt to desexualize myself – to make myself less attractive to predators.
Of course, neither of our stories are that simple. Roxane takes hundreds of pages to circle around truths, many of which seem to contradict each other. She is a woman making sense of her life and her body and how she fits into the world.
This is hard to read. Like, put it in the freezer and try not to think about it because it gives you serious frowny face kind of hard. But in the end, it was so worth it to me. I just looked at this book as I struggled to do it justice and all I could think was how much I wanted to hug it. Thank you, Ms. Gay for writing a book that clearly contains so much of you in it. I am not brave enough to do the same but I’m grateful that you are.