MY (Re)View: HUNGER by ROXANE GAY
I was saddened and stunned when I read her highest weight on page, not because of the number but because I knew how much grief it signified. I felt sorrow for Roxane Gay and yearned to give her a hug but I was certain it would be the last thing she'd want (if she had been in front of me). Let’s just say Roxane Gay’s epic memoir, Hunger, is her #metoo statement times infinity.
If you’re a close family member, friend, or anyone I’ve traveled with, you’ve probably met the kulambo* – my cherished mosquito net. Much like Linus had his blanket, I have my net/s (I keep a collection as replacements for when the current one withers). I wrap this treasure around my legs while relaxing, watching TV at home, reading, sleeping, and yes, even when traveling. It’s been my steady partner in crime since childhood. My kulambo has been and is a constant source of comfort. It’s literally my safety net.
What does my mosquito net have to do with Roxane Gay and her book? Come to think of it, what does my net AND Hunger have to do with the theme of this blog, which is supposed to highlight the different ways I’m reaching for the healthiest version of my 40s?
Hunger is Gay’s memoir about being overweight and the truth of her “unruly” body. The book also tells her harrowing account of being gang-raped at twelve years old and, in turn, how she used weight to become her protective shield. “I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe,” Roxane Gay announced on Hunger. Her weight was the comfort that she clung to. “I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big(ger), my body would be safe,” I am now announcing, too, because it’s the exact same thing I’ve done on and off throughout my life; like so many others who have been through sexual trauma.
I know not all overweight people are heavy because they experienced sexual violence and I know not everyone who has been molested and/or was a victim of harassment are overweight. But let's be honest that it might clear up a lot of stormy days if you realize they could be connected if it pertained to you. Trauma of any kind and how you deal with or shield from it is baggage you can start unpacking mentally once you’re truthful with yourself, much like Roxane Gay was in her book. Reading Hunger has helped me to be more self-reflective about those issues as well.
Let me be perfectly clear that this has absolutely nothing to do with weight and everything to do with health. Catharsis is a beautiful damn thing, after all.
Now back to my beloved kulambo. Maybe it didn't have a place in this review, but I felt I had to tell you about it anyway. If I had a dollar for everyone who has asked me when I'd be giving up my “childhood” security net, I'd have at least $88 by now. And surely Linus would’ve let his blanket go by the time he married Sally, right? So why am I holding on to and have no intention of letting go of my net? To be honest, I don’t know. I’m not saying it’s been the placebo pill that has fixed my weight or emotional issues regarding my own trauma because those are still works in progress and definitely something not even my super kulambo can fully mend. My net has, however, been a constant source of comfort for as long as I can remember. And through the years, as my own weight (my other security blanket) fluctuated, my adored kulambo has literally been the one thing I can consistently count on and carry with me everywhere to feel safe.
I can’t begin to tell you how much Hunger has fed me mentally and satiated me spiritually. As much as this may not read as a typical book review, I wholeheartedly recommend this powerful book, if only just to experience Roxane Gay's superhero words.
And if I could, I would give Roxane Gay her very own kulambo straight from my collection...and a hug (but only if she allows me).
*Tagalog word for mosquito net