‘Everybody has a story and a history. Here I offer mine with a memoir of my body and my hunger .’
This memoir was recommended to me, and when I picked it up I knew nothing about Roxane Gay. I read that Roxane, born 28 October 1974, is the daughter of prosperous Haitian immigrants to the USA. She is 6’3” (190.5 centimetres) tall, and at her heaviest weighed 577 pounds (261.7 kilograms). Who is this woman, and why is her story important?
I found this memoir is both about being fat, and how our experiences (particularly traumatic experiences) can shape our lives. Roxane Gay was raped as a twelve-year old. She did not tell anyone and responded by eating: ‘I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe.’ While I understand that response, my heart ached for the twelve-year old girl who thought that she needed to punish herself, who thought that by being fat (and therefore less attractive) she’d be less visible and therefore safe.
There’s no weight loss success story here. Success takes a different form as Ms Gay writes about her experiences, about her body and what has happened to it, and how she views it. Alongside the personal journey, Ms Gay writes about perceptions of women, about what is seen as attractive and desirable.
‘Why do we view the boundaries people create for themselves as challenges ?’
I agree with much of what Ms Gay writes about the various forms hunger can take and the unrealistic expectations placed on so many women. Women are frequently criticised for their looks, their weight and their shape. It’s logical to conclude that a woman’s body is her own responsibility. But what does that responsibility entail? I need to think more about that. I need to think about my own response to weight issues, about what is healthy.
Ms Gay writes that: ‘Writing this book is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done .’
I can believe that. This kind of self-analysis is incredibly difficult and confronting. For me, this book is a starting point, an invitation to think. Some hunger can never really be satisfied.