Book Review: Hunger by Roxane Gay

 

4.5/5 Stars.

“I often tell my students that fiction is about desire in one way or another. The older I get, the more I understand that life is generally the pursuit of desires. We want and want and oh how we want. We hunger.”

This is a book about hunger—but not the kind of hunger that first comes to mind when you learn that it’s a book about being overweight. It’s about hunger for many things: escape, solace, acceptance, safety, understanding.

Roxane Gay is one of the most brilliant, sharp, witty and insightful writers of our time. In this deeply personal memoir, she candidly tells the story of her body, and what it’s like to live in a world that doesn’t create space (neither physical nor emotional) for people with bodies like hers.

As Roxane writes in her opening chapter, this isn’t your typical motivational memoir about triumph, and as someone who loathes those kinds of books, for that I am grateful. I wouldn’t expect anything else from Roxane, whom I’ve long admired for her brazen realness and no-bullshit personality. Roxane lays bare the traumatic event that marked a turning point in her life, and the “after” that followed—during which she turned to eating as a means of coping in various ways.

While Hunger is very much Roxane’s story about her own body, there’s a universality to it: she has a way with words that cuts to the core of what it means to be human. We each hunger in our own ways.

It’s impossible for me to put into words how much I adore Roxane Gay, and how grateful I am for her powerful, beautiful writing. Hunger is a memoir that shouldn’t be missed.

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4.5/5 Stars.

I’m in awe of Roxane Gay. If this collection had gone on forever I would never grow tired of it. It contains the depths of the human condition in all its darkness, loneliness, quirkiness and indecency.

These are stories about people (mostly women) seeking to fill their hollow spaces however they can. They’re gritty and direct and real and utterly devoid of sentimentality. Gay’s characters accept life for what it is—all its ugliness, all its complexity—and there’s something strangely refreshing and comforting about that.

The subject matter is demanding and unrelenting; this is not a happy collection, though it’s by no means maudlin. Being human isn’t pretty, but there’s beauty in that. If that statement resonates with you, so too will these fierce, gutting stories.