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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

This thread is for open discussion of Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, by Roxane Gay.

As usual in our group, the discussion will contain spoilers.

So, let's talk about it...


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I'll be reading all three books in the next couple of weeks. I know many of you have finished this book, and are eager to discuss it. Go ahead, I'll jump in soon.


message 3: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1690 comments I highly recommend the audio - Gay narrates herself and she has some repeated phrases that start sounding like poetry refrains.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Amy wrote: "I highly recommend the audio - Gay narrates herself and she has some repeated phrases that start sounding like poetry refrains."

That's good to know! The library holds lists are too long for all 3 books, so I got them on Audible today.


message 5: by Susan (new)

Susan | 69 comments Agree that the audiobook is worthwhile with Gay narrating. Her honesty and willingness to share some very personal experiences is admirable.


message 6: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 236 comments There's emotion I know would come out in the text, too, but hearing it in her voice was spectacular.


message 7: by Peebee (new)

Peebee | 68 comments I don't generally do audiobooks, but since I've read it and Roxane narrates herself, I'm all in!


message 8: by Bob (new)

Bob Lopez | 377 comments I'm listening to it now, about 3 hours in. It's tough--my feelings are complicated about it yet, but I'm really invested. She's a great reader for sure, and her writing is so natural, almost effortless.


message 9: by Kelly (new)

Kelly | 28 comments Books like this always make me wonder what it must be like to be a member of her family. I mean, she generally portrays them as pretty awesome and loving, but I can't imagine reading something like this about my (hypothetical) daughter or sister, or even just hearing other people discuss it.

I was pretty mixed on the book. I finished last weekend and I'm still struggling to compile my thoughts on it, but something wasn't quite working for me.


message 10: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1087 comments Roxane is curating a popup, once a week magazine in which writers talk about what it means to live in an unruly body. I love the way she broadens the question: "Living in an unruly body, as we all do..."

https://medium.com/s/unrulybodies/the...


message 11: by Jason (new)

Jason Perdue | 624 comments The Spanish cover is awesome.

https://twitter.com/Escargotina/statu...


message 12: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 07, 2018 06:22PM) (new)

I listened to the audio book yesterday. Then I came to GR to mark it read and maybe give it a rating. Sometimes I don't rate memoirs because a personal story doesn't fit the paradigm of the GR stars. I didn't like hearing Gay recount her pain, so should I give it one star? That would be ridiculous! There is no way I could give it only one star, but that is the rating that fits best because I hated it! It was painful to listen to her recounting her rape and the many ways she has suffered as a result of that trauma. I couldn't choose two stars because it wasn't okay. Three or four stars indicate varying degrees of "like", which is not a word I could apply to this book. I am amazed by Gay's courage and honesty, so five stars was the only option.


message 13: by Lola (last edited Apr 08, 2018 03:07PM) (new)

Lola | 118 comments Tina wrote: "I listened to the audio book yesterday. Then I came to GR to mark it read and maybe give it a rating. Sometimes I don't rate memoirs because a personal story doesn't fit the paradigm of the GR star..."
I agree with your assessment about the difficulty in rating memoirs. I was able to rate Educated yet this one, I could not bring myself to rate-mostly because while I had issues with some of the writing (and yet found some parts beautiful and amazing), I couldn't feel anything but respect for how RG put all of herself on the page. I thought it best for me to just mark it as read and move on without giving it a rating.


message 14: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 764 comments I was expecting to love Hunger, and was surprised by my disappointment. I think I gave it 3 stars. I was not rating her life or her experience, or even, in this particular case, the writing, which was, as always with Roxane Gay, stellar. I think what happened to her was horrific and something that no one can "get over," and to have kept it to herself all those years allowed it to fester, and I assume she is correct that her weight and body issues are at least partially a result of that. Also, as a woman of size myself (although she would mock me lightly as a "Lane Bryant" woman of size), I obviously understand and empathize with her experience that the world does not treat us well.

I don't know how to put into words what bothered me about it. I don't want to accuse her of being a whiner, because of all of the above -- of course, it goes without saying that her experiences and reactions are legitimate. But at some point, her ... for want of a better term ... almost chip-on-the-shoulder attitude, which threw every interaction she had into the same basket, started to wear on me. For example, when she went to a conference and she was on a panel and they only provided a small chair for her, she seemed to see it (and many similar situations) as a deliberate slight and slap in the face, as if they were, purposefully, mocking her. If anything, I think it's the opposite -- they DIDN'T look at her, think, oh, my god, she's going to break the chair. They looked at her as a person and just didn't think about it. And I understand that that's her objection, that they don't think about it -- but why should they? What is the obligation of the whole world towards you, the individual, and when are you, the individual, expecting too much of the world's empathy and ability to see things from your point of view?

I know I'm not saying it clearly, but I just felt that beyond her totally legitimate experiences and feelings, there was a layer of chip-on-the shoulder attitude towards what the world should do for her that I found distasteful. And this startled and disappointed me, because I love her so much.


message 15: by Bob (new)

Bob Lopez | 377 comments Ellen wrote: " I don't want to accuse her of being a whiner..."

This was my issue with the book as well. For a lot of her interactions, she didn't give the benefit of the doubt, not to strangers, not her family, not her father even. There's a description late in the book where she's seeing a doctor and she's...sort of whining about the type of care he wants to give her, that it's related to her body...I mean, lady, that's his primary concern?!

Early in the book she discusses how she doesn't like it when people dance around the word "fat," and she claims the word for herself. But then, when a medical professional, and by some degree her parents, try to address this "fat" she is offended by it. I'll grant, her parents were pretty indelicate about it but she seems to lump all concerns for her health (which she admits is troubling) with the social stigma attached to people of size. It didn't seem fair.

Maybe, the larger point of it all was that she doesn't want anyone to address it at all, and that seems more fair to me than lumping concern with prejudice.


message 16: by Kelly (new)

Kelly | 28 comments Ellen - thank you! I think you captured a lot of what I'm struggling to say. Her interactions just seem so prickly - and I get that that is based on many horrific experiences. But if I were to ever have a chance to meet her now I would be terrified to talk to her, because I feel like any and every action or word I used would be under a microscope looking for slights.


message 17: by Amanda (new)

Amanda | 126 comments Bob wrote: "Ellen wrote: " I don't want to accuse her of being a whiner..."

This was my issue with the book as well. For a lot of her interactions, she didn't give the benefit of the doubt, not to strangers, ..."


While it has been awhile since I read Hunger, I believe that her issues with medical professionals is that they only see her weight. This is actually a common problem for people with obesity. Doctors are quick to blame the patient's weight for whatever issue the person is in the office for. I do remember from either her book or from Twitter that Roxane's vitals(blood pressure, blood glucose levels, etc) are all in the healthy range even with her size. Doctor's do not know how to handle this.

I believe her push is for doctors to see people of size as people and not just their weight. Roxane is not the only person who has received less than stellar medical care because of her weight.


message 18: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 764 comments Kelly wrote: "Ellen - thank you! I think you captured a lot of what I'm struggling to say. Her interactions just seem so prickly - and I get that that is based on many horrific experiences. But if I were to ever..."

Oh, my goodness, yes. I found myself thinking, well, maybe she'd give me more of a chance because I'm also a Woman of Size, but I then became afraid that I wasn't Of Size ENOUGH.


message 19: by Bob (new)

Bob Lopez | 377 comments Amanda wrote: "I believe her push is for doctors to see people of size as people and not just their weight. Roxane is not the only person who has received less than stellar medical care because of her weight. "

Fair points. In the book, as far as I remember, she did mention elevated blood pressure, but she didn't really go too in depth on that aspect of body.


message 20: by Amanda (new)

Amanda | 126 comments Roxane Gay published an essay on Medium today that feels like it should be the epilogue to Hunger.
https://medium.com/s/unrulybodies/the...


message 21: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 24, 2018 11:06AM) (new)

Amanda wrote: "Roxane Gay published an essay on Medium today that feels like it should be the epilogue to Hunger.
https://medium.com/s/unrulybodies/the..."


Thanks for sharing this, Amanda. I read the article through tear-filled eyes, and had to take a couple of breaks to ugly cry. Once again, I am astounded by Roxane Gay's courage and honesty.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 626 comments Amanda wrote: "Roxane Gay published an essay on Medium today that feels like it should be the epilogue to Hunger.
https://medium.com/s/unrulybodies/the..."


Wow. I mean, god, is it really worth this? (Pre-emptive stabby looks to anyone who responds with something about health... go read Hunger first.)


message 23: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1087 comments Roxane is amazing. I feel like her LIFE is a work of art...the whole way she conducts herself in the public sphere, the power of her example, the pain she is willing to expose. I am stupid with love for this woman.


Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 580 comments She is so lovely and powerful (in such a modest way) in person at her readings too!


message 25: by Heather (new)

Heather (hlynhart) | 308 comments I too have seen Roxane speak publically, and I too am in awe of her poise, her clarity, and her turn of a phrase that so gets to the heart of the matter and the human condition (that said, while I love her non-fiction I've yet to be converted to her fiction...)


message 26: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 236 comments So I was thinking about the idea of prickliness and Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body.

I've been reading So You Want to Talk About Race (which is amazing.) Oluo talks at one point about microagressions & makes an analogy along the lines of say you're walking down the street and every third or fourth person deliberately punches you in the arm, and then you pass someone who's just gesticulating in their conversation and that person hits your arm. Even though that person didn't set out to do you harm, and might say "calm down it was just an accident" or "I'm not a bad person don't lump me in with all those jerks" or whatnot - that person still did you harm. Your arm still hurts, and that person is still responsible for that part of your pain. And maybe that person doesn't need to feel responsible for all of your pain, but they still can say "I hurt you and I'm sorry for that and I will pay more attention when gesticulating in the future. And I understand that all of the bruises you're already carrying made my thoughtless gesture hurt all the more. In future I will call out street-punchers, and let punch-receivers know that I hear them and the truth of their pain."

So in applying that to Roxane's memoir, I'm thinking that being mocked and name-called and coming up against ill-fitting chairs and clothes and spaces in general - all of that, whether deliberately targeting her (and one glance at her twitter makes it clear she comes in for a LOT of deliberate targeting) or just the inadvertent difficulties of living her life, means that it's not easy to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. And IIRC she's in her 40s now, and has been overweight since she was a teen - how much exhausting work would it take me to be giving out the benefit of the doubt for thirty straight years? More than I'm willing to do, at any rate.

It's hard to trust sincerity or lack of judgment in strangers when over and over, from strangers and acquaintances and loved ones, her fatness becomes a weapon or problem or judgment against her. When everything you do to arm yourself against those barbs - acknowledging fatness yourself, paying for needed accommodations when traveling, enduring the 'but is this just cause you're fat?' part of going to the doctor with an unrelated issue, etc. - still leaves you exposed to harm, you get prickly.

When you set out to write a book exploring your relationship to your body, and you know going in that so many readers, or casual not-reading-but-judging-anyway people, will call you prickly, or defensive, or not taking responsibility for your health, how can you write it and not come off as defensive? How can you explain 'this is what my life looks like, this is a thing that hurt me even if that person wasn't trying to hurt me, they were just gesticulating and punched me in the arm'?

It strikes me as one very tough part of the challenging task of writing something this open, and vulnerable, and thoughtful. Maybe some prickliness in the text is inevitable, and something the reader should navigate through for the exposure to everything else this book is.


message 27: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1087 comments Brilliant, Melanie. Thank you!


message 28: by Alex (new)

Alex Walcott | 2 comments I love this comparison!


message 29: by Alex (new)

Alex Walcott | 2 comments Embarrassing plug- I love this discussion of Dr. Gay’s memoir and want to be a part...but I’m also lazy And hate writing long posts on my phone. But here’s a link to my blog where I wrote a blog about it in January if anyone is interested. Bonus- there’s adorable photos of my cat!

https://www.cattalesblog.com/blog/rav...


message 30: by Bob (new)

Bob Lopez | 377 comments Anyone got a link yet?


message 31: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 764 comments I went to look at Alex's cat photos. I love cat photos! Love to Julian....


message 32: by Drew (new)

Drew (drewlynn) | 422 comments Melanie wrote: "So I was thinking about the idea of prickliness and Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body.

I've been reading So You Want to Talk About Race (which is amazing.) Oluo talks ..."


Thank you, Melanie. Beautifully stated. As I was reading this book, I had to remind myself over and over to STOP JUDGING HER. Or, really, stop judging. Period. None of us know what another person is feeling or has been through.


message 34: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 236 comments Bob wrote: "Oh, it's up!

https://themorningnews.org/article/we..."


Thanks for the link! I guess we'll really see each other back on Friday, not today. :)


message 35: by [deleted user] (last edited May 01, 2018 05:20PM) (new)

Thanks for posting the link, Bob! I checked this morning, but then I got busy at work and couldn't get back here.

Sorry everyone, I was too eager to get started, and I forgot that today was just the introduction. Three more days to wait...


message 36: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 764 comments Drew wrote: " As I was reading this book, I had to remind myself over and over to STOP JUDGING HER. Or, really, stop judging. Period. None of us know what another person is feeling or has been through. "

But -- am I judging her if I'm talking about my experience reading the book, that there were things about her perceptions that made me uncomfortable, and NOT in the way of : "I need to see the truth and be made uncomfortable by it, so I can understand humanity better."?

Her childhood experience was horrific. Inconceivable. She is way ahead of the game for just surviving it. I don't question or doubt it, nor do I think that any reaction she has had to it and from it is questionable or arguable or ... criticizable, if that's a word. Nor do I question that the world treats fat and obese people horribly and unfairly. Hey, I'm pretty fat myself. My issue is with some of her conclusions about other people's motivations and actions -- like, for example, conference planners who did not provide sturdy enough chairs for her. She seemed to think it was a deliberate slight or even a trick on her, when the worst you could say is that it betrayed a not-that-malevolent thoughtlessness. In a way, one could even say it's kind of a compliment -- they don't see her as someone who might break a chair. I have to say that if I were the conference planner, it would never occur to me -- and I'm a fat woman.

I'm pretty paranoid about how I think the world perceives me. But when I really think about it, I don't blame the world. I don't blame myself, either -- it's just the way things are. And when it comes right down to it, I don't expect the world to adjust its relatively non-malevolent thinking to me; it's my job to adjust my thinking to the rest of the world. Isn't it?

Again, when it comes to her experience of rape or the overt discrimination that she has received because of her size, I don't question it and cannot be critical of it. But some of the things she's presenting as poor treatment...just didn't seem like it to me. I'm not judging her -- I'm talking about my discomfort with the conclusions she drew as I read them in the book. Is that not valid?


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 626 comments Ellen wrote: "Drew wrote: " As I was reading this book, I had to remind myself over and over to STOP JUDGING HER. Or, really, stop judging. Period. None of us know what another person is feeling or has been thro..."

I suppose if you see it as a variety of accommodation, there is definitely a feeling that it is "not my problem" if "you don't fit." I can see what you are saying though. Presented with an extra large chair, some might be offended. But it couldn't hurt to have one without arms, etc.


message 38: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 764 comments But wouldn't it be contingent upon that person to request a chair with no arms? Maybe they didn't know until she got there -- and maybe they just didn't think -- but I just can't see it as malicious.


message 39: by Jenny (Reading Envy) (last edited May 02, 2018 08:30AM) (new)

Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 626 comments Ellen wrote: "But wouldn't it be contingent upon that person to request a chair with no arms? Maybe they didn't know until she got there -- and maybe they just didn't think -- but I just can't see it as malicious."

That's such a privilege, to be able to not have to think about it. I think that's her point. We've addressed this issue for other accessibility needs but usually not size. This is where people often feel like it's an inconvenience to provide accommodation because it isn't required by law. You may see it as a difference between not thinking about it and refusing to provide it, but if you haven't thought about it and therefore are unable to provide it, the end result is the same. Roxane does have a lengthy list of demands because of this experience but she herself has the privilege to be able to do so.

Contrast this with companies who PROVIDE accommodations for people of a certain size without having to be asked... this is the ideal. To show "we've thought of this because we know not everyone is a size 6 and we want you to be comfortable" really goes a long way.


message 40: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 764 comments I do see your point -- but I still think that everyone cannot provide for every contingency. I'm right with her when she's treated thoughtlessly and cruelly as a result of some accommodation she has to beg for, like on a plane, for example -- but it seemed like she treated all such situations equally, and saw malice in them.

And we've addressed the issue for SOME other accessibility needs in SOME situations, but not all, in every one. There are still situations in which sometimes the person with the issue might need to contact the facility or the people involved ahead of time, explain the needs, and ask for them to be met. Of course the ideal is for all ability issues to be met without being asked for, but that would be impossible.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 626 comments Ellen wrote: "I do see your point -- but I still think that everyone cannot provide for every contingency. I'm right with her when she's treated thoughtlessly and cruelly as a result of some accommodation she ha..."

I like to think of it as an analogy to inclusive pedagogy, something I'm immersed in at work. At one workshop, a professor remarked, "Well these strategies just seem like good teaching!" and he isn't wrong. I guess the more we just assume we will need to at some point accommodate a person of a certain size into our space/event planning, the easier it will be to do so. (Similar to how in our teaching we want to make sure we aren't using practices that exclude international students, trans* students, students from different socioeconomic brackets - so yes one could say "it's impossible to plan for every possible scenario," but it's also true that some strategies are more inclusive to start with.)

This makes sense in my head so I hope I'm making a good comparison. It's harder to navigate a world that hasn't considered you at any stage of the planning, and I can see how a lifetime of that feeling would make a person see it even where it isn't intended. But like I've heard before, impact trumps intent.

But yeah, planes - the worst.


message 42: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 764 comments I do see that. Of course. And of course I'm not saying her issues aren't/weren't legitimate, just that my experience, reading the book, made me uneasy about her reactions in some cases, which was especially disheartening because I love her so, so much -- I thought An Untamed State was the standout book of its ToB year, and was shocked when it didn't even make it to the finals, and I read her op-ed pieces in the Times even when I don't read anything else.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 626 comments Ellen wrote: "I do see that. Of course. And of course I'm not saying her issues aren't/weren't legitimate, just that my experience, reading the book, made me uneasy about her reactions in some cases, which was e..."

I've been nervous about reading that one, probably still should. Do you have any different understanding of the novel from reading Hunger? (I guess I'm asking, knowing what you know now, does the novel feel semiautobiographical?)


message 44: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 764 comments Huh. You know, except for one angle, which would probably count as a spoiler, I honestly don't think so, not at all. Certainly not superficially, that's for sure -- maybe on a deeper level, though. Thinking about it, I can see how she might have a deeper understanding of how her main character acted and reacted as a result of her personal experience, but other than that -- I have to say that I think not.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 626 comments Ellen wrote: "Huh. You know, except for one angle, which would probably count as a spoiler, I honestly don't think so, not at all. Certainly not superficially, that's for sure -- maybe on a deeper level, though...."

Okay thanks.


message 46: by Bob (new)

Bob Lopez | 377 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "We've addressed this issue for other accessibility needs but usually not size..."

When you work, in say government, and you provide a service to the public, many states require--by law--language to be included in advertising and paperwork "If you need special accommodations, please contact..." At least in my state, it's not limited to wheelchair accessibility. Now, as far as the private sector goes, I'm not certain...

Honestly I don't know what the planners of that event were thinking--if they were aware that she was a woman of size or not, if they thought they had made appropriate accommodation for her and got it wrong (I couldn't tell you which chairs could or couldn't fit couldn't comfortably fit larger people...with or without arms--people carry weight differently, chairs are different). But there was a presumption that, because they got it wrong, there was inconsideration or, at worst, malevolence.


message 47: by [deleted user] (last edited May 04, 2018 07:54AM) (new)

Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "(I guess I'm asking, knowing what you know now, does the novel feel semiautobiographical?)"

I agree with Ellen. An Untamed State is not autobiographical, though both the protagonist and the author are rape survivors/victims. AUS is a very good novel, but reading it was a traumatic experience for me. I have never cried harder or for longer than when I was reading that book. Parts of it made me feel sick, and not just from the prolonged sobbing. It gave me a headache, stomachache, and nightmares, but I'm still glad I read it.


message 48: by [deleted user] (new)

Link to ToB site for Hunger discussion, part 1: https://themorningnews.org/article/th...


message 49: by [deleted user] (new)

Link to ToB site for Hunger discussion, part 2: https://themorningnews.org/article/th...


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