“When I was twelve years old I was raped and then I ate and ate and ate to build my body into a fortress. I was a mess and then I grew up and away from that terrible day and became a different kind of mess – a woman doing the best she can to love well and be loved well, to live well and be human and good.
I am as healed as I am ever going to be. I have accepted that I will never be the girl I could have been if, if, if. I am still haunted. I still have flashbacks that are triggered by the most unexpected things. I don’t like being touched by people with whom I do not share specific kinds of intimacy. I am suspicious of groups of men, particularly when I am alone. I have nightmares, though with far less frequency. I will never forgive the boys who raped me and I am a thousand percent comfortable with that because forgiving them will not free me from anything. I don’t know if I am happy, but I can see and feel that happiness is well within my reach.”
Roxane Gay is an absolute force – of nature, of will, of determination. Her writing is fierce, sharp, and magnetic. She appears to be tireless and fearless, though she confesses to be neither.
Earlier this year, Gay released her collection of short stories entitled “Difficult Women” which was staggeringly, devastatingly good (reviewed here). Six months later, Gay has released her second book of the year – “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body”. The subject matter between these two books is remarkably similar, the short stories echoing Gay’s anecdotes from her life. The writing style and the tone of the two works, however, couldn’t be more different. Where “Difficult Women” was lurid, full of jagged, sharp language and characters “difficult” like a thorn in the side, a nagging splinter, “Hunger” is spare, measured, even minimalist. Some chapters are a mere sentence or two; others are populated by gently repeated refrains. And throughout this memoir, there is a distinct lack of embellishment, of finesse. This book is a deeply personal journey, and it is unequivocal, direct, and naked. Roxane Gay’s writing style in this work perfectly embodies her message. Hers is a story about baring one’s soul, about making oneself willingly, courageously vulnerable. It is a story about trauma and its lasting scars, about self and self image, and about finding and speaking your truth, about yearning and hungering for more.
“Writing this book is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. To lay myself so vulnerable has not been an easy thing. To face myself and what living in m body has been like has not been an easy thing, but I wrote this book because it felt necessary. In writing this memoir of my body, in telling you these truths about my body, I am sharing my truth and mine alone. I understand if that truth is not something you want to hear. The truth makes me uncomfortable too. But I am also saying, here is my heart, what’s left of it. Here I am showing you the ferocity of my hunger. Here I am, finally freeing myself to be vulnerable and terribly human. Here I am, reveling in that freedom. Here. See what I hunger for and what my truth has allowed me to create.”
Thank you to Harper for the complimentary copy in exchange for a fair and honest review. “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body” was released by Harper on June 13, 2017.