*Trigger Warning: This novel (and review) covers topics including sexual assault and eating disorders.*
Where do you start with a book as heavy as Hunger?
From the very first chapter, Gay describes her auto-biography as “not a success story.” Instead, she describes her life as what it was like before and after she was sexually assaulted and raped as a teen in a brutally honest timeline in which she coped and survived, and continues to do so. Much of the time, her choice coping mechanism was eating.
“I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.”
She then recounts how the shame and guilt she carried followed her throughout the stages of her life- through school, college, relationships. She never told her parents about the rape, and all they ever noticed was her increasing body weight- in which they continuously monitored and suggested every diet under the sun to help Gay with her “little problem”. Desperate, there was a period of time when Gay decided that to both comfort herself and yet please those that wanted her to lose weight, she became a bulimic for two years- and only a few people noticed. She struggled to find the balance between feeling safe and comfortable in her own body, and feeling comfortable in the world around her.
I listened to this memoir on audio, which is narrated by Gay herself. I found this so apt- the only one fitting enough to share this story is the woman herself. Her narrative was full of emotion, of heartbreaking honesty that retained both sadness and determination to persevere. It was very conversational, intimate, and confessional. I also had this phrase stuck in my head, in which Gay was explaining her size, saying that there are women who are “Lane Bryant fat” and then people like her. This broke my heart, because as a Lane Byrant fat girl, who gets pissed at the unavailability of cute clothing choices and inaccessible price points, I truly can only imagine Gay’s struggle. It’s hard enough in today’s society to feel adequate- women are constantly comparing ourselves to other women, to women who set the standards for achievable “body goals”- let alone to accept living in the body you have. Gay does this gracefully, explaining her mindset over the course of her life as she changes from hiding in her body to accepting her body and all that it has been through.
(Photo Credit: Google Images)
It’s a very fast paced audiobook, at just 6 hours long, and I found myself absorbed in it. It might not be an easy read, but it’s powerful, emotional, and absolutely worth reading.