The title of this book is perfect. Anyone, who knows who Roxane Gay is, will assume the book has to do with eating. Hunger connotes a desire for food, right? But, this book is much more than a book about food. It’s a book about yearning, about hungering for many things. Food is, of course, one of those things. But, Ms. Gay hungers for companionship, for love, for acceptance, for simple courtesy. She hungers for recognition of who she is versus what she looks like. In fact, there is little in the book that indicates that she hungers for food.
The short chapters feel as if each could be a confessional on a shrink’s couch. The author shares her innermost wants, needs, feelings. It is so revealing that the reader feels as if they are intruding. The courage it took to write the book is evident. But, what’s not so evident but clear is how much the author had to go deep within herself to really understand who she was. I’m assuming she did that alone and not in therapy. She doesn’t mention being in therapy (except some counseling when she was in high school).
In doing that, we might ask ourselves, do we really see others? Do we assume by what we see in other people’s appearance (bodies), they are a certain way without knowing that person. Are we subconsciously critical of people who are fat (anorexic, old, handicapped–my additions)?
Ms. Gay helps the reader understand the difficulty she has doing very normal things, like going out to dinner with friends, going to the doctor, using a public restroom, flying in an airplane, sitting behind the steering wheel of a car, going to a movie or the theatre. The list is endless. I can add others: Serving on jury duty, walking on a sidewalk, sitting on a park bench. Those of us in normal-sized bodies take all these things for granted. After having read Hunger, I will never take these things for granted again.
Hunger is a tough read. My hope is the process of writing it helped Ms. Gay deal with her own deep-seated, long-standing traumas. In the meantime, I will never look at an overweight person in the same way. That much I gained from this book.
The book is not a slow read. The chapters are quickly devoured. The sentences short. The emotion high.