Roxane Gay is about to revolutionize how you feel about body image with 'Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body.' We talked to the cultural critic about what it's like to write about food and not focus on losing weight.
“This is not a book about triumph.”
That’s the first line in Hunger, which — like Roxane Gay’s essay collection, Bad Feminist — is fairly radical. Most memoirs about weight are inspirational, but Hunger is written from the perspective of a self-described obese woman who’s not getting thinner. “I started this book fat, and I’m finishing it fat,” says Gay. “This isn’t a book about successful weight loss. It’s about trying to change my relationship with food.”
On Twitter and her popular Tumblr, Gay creates an intimate relationship with readers by using details from her own life to explore the anxieties we share as a culture. In Hunger, she’ll reveal what it was like to grow up in a family of thin, attractive people, as well as how she coped with a brutal act of violence in her youth — two experiences that shaped her self-image. She’ll describe how her size has changed the way she dresses and even the way she inhabits public space. “The bigger you get, the smaller the world becomes, because there are fewer places where you can feel comfortable,” she explains. “You start to research restaurants to see if the chairs will accommodate you. You stop going to the movies or the beauty salon. Soon, you realize that the whole world might be your apartment, because there’s no room for you out in the world.”
Gay has found small ways to take care of herself — not just by cooking healthier meals but also by accepting her body as something that’s worthy of love. She knows that this will be harder to do once Hunger comes out. Already, she’s baffled by the insensitive way it’s being covered in the media. One publication headlined an interview with her “Chewing the Fat With Roxane Gay.” But to her, that reaction just proves that this book needed to be written. “It was putting the elephant in the room, so to speak,” she says. “People will look, but they won’t say any – thing, or they’ll say something behind my back. So I decided to stop that game and say, ‘You know what? I’m gonna talk about this. I’m gonna take control of the narrative — and of my body.'”