Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
I listened to this book via Audible on a 4 hour drive to Indiana. It is a short book, but it packs a powerful punch, especially when the author is reading her own words. As the title suggests, the book is a memoir of the author's body: things that have been done to it, things that she's done to it, things it has done to her. From rape to tattoos. Obesity to hugs. Roxane Gay covers alot of ground in this short book.
This book was equal parts heartbreaking, infuriating, and informative. I learned a lot about what it is like to be an obese woman in America. I was heartbroken when I heard of the anxiety she experiences when it comes to entering a new room - and particularly the type of chairs that may or may not be available to her. Chairs with arms are quite painful for her to sit in and often leave bruises up and down her body.
The part that struck close to home was what it is like for her to go shopping. There are what she calls "Lane Bryant Fat" and then there are those who have to shop in the men's section because the fashion industry does not offer clothing to women of her size. As an academic working in the fashion industry I'm well aware of how the industry seems to ignore the "average" woman, much less a plus-sized or obese woman. We see a very small taste of this on this season's Project Runway where they've introduced models of varying sizes for the first time.
The thing I felt was missing from this book were offers of solutions for how society can be better and do better. Before I go into this section, I want to acknowledge that this is a memoir and there are no expectations for a memoir to offer solutions to the problems the author experienced, but I would love really appreciated the author's insight about how society can improve after she spent the time and effort to articulate her criticisms.
Roxane Gay offered a number of criticisms of how society reacts to obesity or ignores obesity, but didn't offer much as to better ways of approaching obesity. In one chapter she lists a variety of ways people have confronted her about her weight, many of whom were people coming from a place of love and concern. She eloquently described how these questions made her feel but didn't offer ways family and friends could approach someone they love to offer their support and encouragement to live a healthier life. During parts of the book I thought to myself, the only way I could successfully interact with this author is to not notice she existed at all.
This book really makes me think. Which is one of my favorite qualities in a book. It makes me rethink how I've approached obesity with my own friends and family or even strangers I've encountered. If you're looking for insight into a world you may not know well and you are open to being empathetic to the challenges faced by others, I think this is your book.
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