Book of the Week: Hunger – Roxane Gay

Novelist and essayist Gay adds memoir to her considerable repertoire in this unforgettable mediation on what it means to be an “unruly body”—an obese woman in a culture that so profoundly and narrowly equates appearance with worth.

Gay broke out with 2014’s bestselling Bad Feminist, which was a best book of the year on many lists and won the 2015 PEN Center USA Freedom to Write Award, a prize given in recognition of her “important, incisive, and connective” writing as well as for tackling “tough subjects and controversial topics with a hard-edged grace and difficult honesty.”

Many memoirs have been written on being overweight–this is a take you haven’t seen. Feminist, incisive, with her trademark ability it blend cultural theory and pop culture, Hunger is a searing book you won’t soon forget.

 It’s received four starred advance reviews and is Indie Next pick. In terms of publicity, everyone wants Roxane for this one. People is running a first serial and an interview; she’ll be on The Daily Show the night before on sale and Fresh Air interview airs 6/19/17 with other interviews to appear in Elle and We can expect reviews just about everywhere and Gay is doing a major, ticketed tour with dozens of speaking dates across the country. (Check out her tour dates here.) This is one of the signature nonfiction books of the summer.

After a group of boys raped her when she was 12 years old, Gay’s world began to unravel, and she turned to overeating as a way of making her violated body into a safe ‘fortress.’… Gay shares how her weight and size shade many topics, including relationships, fashion, food, family, the medical profession, and travel (the bigger her body became, the author notes, the smaller her world became). She suffered profound shame and self-loathing, and boldly confronts society’s cruelty toward and denigration of larger individuals (particularly women), its fear of ‘unruly bodies,’ and the myth that equates happiness with thinness. This raw and graceful memoir digs deeply into what it means to be comfortable in one’s body. Gay denies that hers is a story of ‘triumph,’ but readers will be hard pressed to find a better word.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“It’s hard to imagine this electrifying book being more personal, candid, or confessional…. In 88 short, lucid chapters, Gay powerfully takes readers through realities that pain her, vex her, guide her, and inform her work. The result is a generous and empathic consideration of what it’s like to be someone else: in itself something of a miracle.”
Booklist (starred review)

“A heart-rending debut memoir from the outspoken feminist and essayist…. The author continues her healing return from brokenness and offers hope for others struggling with weight, sexual trauma, or bodily shame. An intense, unsparingly honest portrait of childhood crisis and its enduring aftermath.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Displays bravery, resilience, and naked honesty from the first to last page…. Stunning …. essential reading.”
Library Journal (starred review)

Hunger reads like a conversation with an intimate friend who generously opens a door to her world. She weaves effortlessly between deeply personal anecdotes and culture criticism that make you reexamine your perception of the world as only Gay can. Her awareness of the treatment of the female body is both accurate and powerful in that it made me recognize what I knew to be true, but couldn’t articulate for myself. The reaction I keep returning after finishing Hunger is one of gratitude towards Gay—for both allowing us the privilege to hear her story and making room for others to do the same.”
— Lindsay Crist, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH

“It turns out that when a wrenching past is confronted with wisdom and bravery, the outcome can be compassion and enlightenment—both for the reader who has lived through this kind of unimaginable pain, and for the reader who knows nothing of it. Roxane Gay shows us how to be decent to ourselves, and decent to one another. Hunger is an amazing achievement in more ways than I can count.”
—  Ann Patchett

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (9780062362599) by Roxane Gay. $25.99 hardcover. 6/13/17 one day laydown.

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