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Roxane Gay’s “Hunger: a Memoir of (my) Body”

Roxane Gay blessed the world with her latest publication Hunger: A Memoir of (my) Body in 2017, which she acknowledges as the hardest book she’s had to write, a novel that recounts her experience as a Haitian American woman who found comfort and agency through nourishing her body after being gang-raped.

At the Beatty Memorial Lecture in October she mentioned that she had to write this book because itwas such a difficult subject to tackle. A testament to the level of vulnerability in the text in its depiction of a topic that’s been at the forefront of cultural opinion for decades. Gay writes about the politics of body image, sexual assault and the navigating racial difference.

“I ate mindlessly, just to fill the gaping wound of me or to try to fill the gaping wound of me.” (102)

The title of the book functions as a metaphor for Gay’s desire to fill herself with something, anything, because there was a void left by suffering. The memoir reveals the hardships of not knowing how to heal. As usual, Gay uses humor and sarcasm to address the cruelties of the world.

The memoir is filled with instances of Gay’s life that emphasize injustices that subsequently created her body as her safety. Gay taking authority over her body may be seen as an act of rebellion against the male gaze and other standards that cater to a patriarchy. In that, this novel contains accounts that are often silenced by society, like that of Gay’s gang-rape, depicting how necessary the circulation of these topics are. Today’s cultural climate hungers to be filled with these narratives in order to grow and learn from them. Exposure to these injustices may act as a necessary education in understanding lives that are different from one’s own.

“People project assumed narratives onto your body and are not at all interested in the truth of your body, whatever it might be.” (120)

Gay also joins in with the symphony of #metoo accounts that have surfaced over the last couple of years. Driving narratives that break down imposed concepts of victim blaming that were so readily integrated into the fabric of society. Simultaneously, Gay gives an account of her experience with body image and how she moves through the world in a body type that is rarely accepted, but rather readily looked at for it’s difference. Ultimately Hunger voices the concerns of the current social climate with humor in a way that commands the spotlight.

By Brenda Odria


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