Book Review: Hunger By Roxane Gay

Summary in three words: Honest. Heartbreaking. Powerful. (8/10)

It’s important to keep learning and growing. Books are a great way to do so. Books are an investment in yourself, be it reading fiction, non-fiction or biographies, each will teach you something about life that you may have not considered or known before. Hunger By Roxane Gay is a biography that was recommended to me by a friend. Thinking it would about the way the world criticizes a woman’s body, I was not ready for the complexity and profound insight the book would give me. If you haven’t read it yet, be prepared as I was not. It is not an easy read in the sense that the emotions beautifully portrayed by Roxane Gay are gripping and almost cut into your skin as you follow her on exploration about the relationship she has with her body.

I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.”

Roxane’s relationship with food and her body makes you reflect on your own relations with both. How we use food as a mood regulator, as a tool to manage our emotions and as a form of punishment. How we judge and measure our own bodies as a sign of worth or success. Claiming that we don’t care how our body is shaped, how it moves or fits into the world is a lie. We often tend to forget that we are not just minds, we are bodies too. Our mental well-being is also determined by our physical well-being. I often see in this world people focusing on one or the other – on either just fitness or just on their intellectual pursuits (that also includes office work that is mainly limited using your knowledge but not your body). We forget that we are a combination of body, mind and soul. It is important to think of the three as a whole. Which is what Roxane does so well in her biography. Her soul suffers, hence her body must too. It is a way she finds balance and understanding in what has happened or is happening in her life.

Three things I learned from the book I didn’t know before (perhaps I was/am ignorant but here I am learning!):

  • Being overweight is a eating disorder, just as much as being underweight. It has nothing to do with willpower or discipline. It is a way to manage hurt inside. It is a cry for help.
  • Not even a loving, understanding and kind family can shield you from the pain the world may put through you. There is no way parents can protect you from the world.
  • Life is full of contradictions, and many of the contradictions are within yourself. You can be in control and totally out of control at the same time. You can know what you want and be completely unsure about it at the same time. Strength is being able to manage the two contradictions within you and live in peace with them.

Overall an insightful book. A quick read and a very well written piece of art.

What did you learn from the book?

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