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Hunger

A Memoir of (My) Body
Written by: Roxane Gay
Narrated by: Roxane Gay
Length: 5 hrs and 58 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (92 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the New York Times best-selling author of Bad Feminist, a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself.

"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."

In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as "wildly undisciplined", Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her past - including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life - and brings listeners along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.

With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved - in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.

©2016 Roxane Gay (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers

What the critics say

"There's no better person to narrate this audio than Roxane Gay herself. Her calm, consistent inflections are juxtaposed with the content of the audiobook.... Her narration is filled with careful intentions - as if every single word stated and not stated explains her existence spatially.... Most of all, her story is felt because content and narration explore the concept of un/control of the body, self, and existence through her voice." ( AudioFile)

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Wow. Just WOW.

Thank you Roxane. This book is just amazing, eye opening and beyond remarkable. One of the best books I've read (listened to) ever.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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hard truths, soft hope

This book was so uncomfortable to sit with and I even resented the author during much of the book for all I was feeling for her and myself. Still I was determined to finish it, to honor the story, her memoir, which she was courageous in penning and sharing. Hunger is such a generous offering by Gay and I am filled with soft hope for her continued un-destruction.

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HEARTBREAKINGLY HONEST

The author tells a story that although no doubt difficult to tell, is so much more difficult to live. Her story resonated with me, as a survivor of sexual abuse, with many of the same body issues as Ms. Gay. But more importantly, she gave me hope that perhaps some day I might be able to garner enough strength and perseverance make it through to the other side and have the perspective she has and be able to begin my journey of healing, as she has. #Audible1

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A must-listen

This should be required listening to everyone on Audible (and beyond!!). What an exquisite collection of words which showcase the immense strength, resilience, and tenacity of Roxane Gay. To have it narrated by her made it that much more of a transformative experience. I will be re-listening to this again and again. Thank you, Roxane for allowing us in to your most personal and private thoughts.

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A Powerful, Worthwhile Read

This brave and honest memoir of Roxane Gay’s struggle with food is a fresh and much-needed account of what it is like to live in a society that over/values thinness and fears the fat body. Thank you for writing this Roxane. You’re beautiful!

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Overrated

I bought this book because of the great reviews, but I was not as blown away by it as other people seem to have been. Of course, Roxane’s horrific incident at 12 and the ways in which she tried to cope with it would touch anyone and elicit the deepest sympathies. For anyone to go through that, much less as a child, is a great burden to bear indeed. Roxane also has a deeply soothing voice, making the book generally a pleasure to listen to. However, although she makes some accurate observations about diet culture (e.g., how companies market thinness as happiness), I was annoyed and often angered by a lot of her comments regarding diet, exercise, and thinner people. She claims to be unhealthy not because of her weight but because of her high blood pressure (which is the result of…) and does not see exercise as anything but a means to lose weight (and hates seeing thinner people in the gym or achieving things on social media, because our existence apparently “mocks” her). A lot of the time, she does not take any real responsibility for her weight, and her conflicting desires to lose weight but maintain her armour is painfully irritating to the reader (or maybe that’s just me). Though she is open about her feelings about her body (and those feelings are, of course, valid), her victim mentality in all aspects of her life was really frustrating to listen to. I would not recommend this book for that reason.

0 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • S. Yates
  • 2017-07-17

Brutal and raw and honest

Any additional comments?

4.5 stars. This is a difficult, painful, excruciating read. But it is also a necessary, revealing, and enlightening read. Gay bares herself, turns her pen toward her own vulnerabilities with a raw and brutal honesty, admitting to things she finds humiliating and shameful, sharing how the most brutal event of her life has shaped her and continues to shape her. Her writing, as always, is clean and sharp and evocative. There is less of her humor here, as the subject is not funny. She does not pull punches and does not attempt to lighten the mood when she discusses the indignities her body subjects her to. She never claims her body is not her responsibility, and she never claims to love her body the way it is or that she does not wish to lose weight. But she also does not spend the entire book berating her body or ignoring that some of what she let her body become was caused by trauma in childhood. I fear many women reading this will see themselves in Gay and hear themselves in her narrative, in her hopes and fears. Especially in her relationship with her body. And it is a sad thing that so many have combative relationships with their own flesh, that many women battle their bodies (whether because of trauma inflicted or because of societal norms or in an effort to control some aspect of their lives). This book leaves me feeling a little battered and emotionally bruised, but better for having read it. Gay's introspective examination, sometimes unflinching and sometimes rightfully flinching, is well worth any reader's time.

46 of 46 people found this review helpful

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  • River Holmes-miller
  • 2017-06-21

Dark, thought provoking, sometimes frustrating

Would you consider the audio edition of Hunger to be better than the print version?

I never know what to do with this question...people tend to read OR listen to a text, but rarely encounter both the print and audio versions. That said, Gay's performance probably adds quite a bit to the experience, so I am giving the audio version the edge here.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Hunger?

I was often struck by how difficult it is -- practically speaking -- for a person of size to simply go through the world. Roxane Gay details her struggles with flying on airplanes, sitting in certain kinds of chairs, and finding clothing she likes. These are things I understood before reading her book, but presented as a daily lived struggle, I found a new sense of empathy and compassion for people of size.

What about Roxane Gay’s performance did you like?

She has a lovely voice. It is well-modulated and soothing. That said, there is very little (perhaps zero?) humor in this book. This is understandable, as the subject matter is dark and personal, but it would have been nice to have a few small moments of levity, if only to introduce another dimension to her speaking voice.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Not particularly. The book feels less shocking or revelatory than it does meditative. I felt compassion, empathy, and sometimes a little frustration -- there is the feeling that Gay's childhood rape was the biggest, most important event in her life, and as such, it eclipses every other good thing that has happened to the author. I understand this, but at times Gay's persistent emphasis on the ways in which she has been damaged seems to conflict with the many, many gifts she has been given. Yes, she was traumatized, and horribly so. But unlike a great many other people who have been traumatized, she has gone on to accomplish much in her life. She went to Yale, and has a fantastic career, and is a well-known and respected author/feminist. Of course, Gay is writing about her body here, a body that she has punished in every possible way since she was 12 years old, so perhaps my frustration is misplaced?

Any additional comments?

There are many universal truths in this book. Though I am of average weight, I related to the underlying shame that Roxane Gay feels, as well as the effect trauma has had on her life. This is a book women of all shapes, sizes, and colors will be able to relate to. It is less about being fat (her word) than it is about wanting to hide from a deep sense of shame and unworthiness. Women do that in lots of ways...Gay holds up the mirror here, and there is much to see.

64 of 68 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2017-08-10

Disturbing

This was not the book I expected, but it was compelling. I can't say that I enjoyed it, given the subject matter. At times, I felt like I would be disrespectful to the author if I didn't struggle through to the end of her story. I'm glad I did. This is a book that is dark and depressing, but, at the same time, uplifting and hopeful. The author's narration was flat at times, which was disconcerting given the information that she was revealing. Perhaps this was the only way she COULD tell her story, with her emotions tightly in check. I recommend this book with this reservation: this is not a lighthearted look at life in a large body. This is raw and painful, and will leave you aching for a truly happy ending. But this is not fiction, and life is not so easily resolved. I wish the author all the best in her life.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Alexandra
  • 2018-01-09

I wanted to love it. I did not.

I heard an interview Roxanne did with Terry Gross and was so excited to listen to the book.

I’m a feminist, a nutrition student, and a deeply interested in hearing intelligent women discuss their relationships with food and body politics.

This book was those things, but it was also painfully repetitive, conflicted, and frustrating at times. I understand that it was the author’s personal truth but this personal truth seemed so fresh and contradictory. I felt the whole time like this concept, these emotions needed to marinate longer, to become more settled and sensical so that they may help others, not just be a wounded, angst-ridden tirade against self, the world, self again, society, self, a specific human or two, back to self...

The author’s tone was at once mean and judgmental of others while demanding not to be judged and loathed herself while often also deriding and judging herself. Again, I get, that’s where she’s at, we’re all messes in one way or another...but as such I derived nothing from this to take away or implement or help shape my own thoughts, feelings, or actions. The guilt, self-love, self-loathing, excuses, apologies, anti-apologies, the whole lot of it was a mess. I wish the author that give herself more time to sort out her feelings, ideas, and what she wanted to communicate.

If feels like you’re a mute therapist in an unending session with a very vocal patient. I’m so, so sad to be returning this one.

20 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2017-06-15

Roxane Gay shares some universal truths

This book made me cry the open mouth, ugly, snot cry, and I know everyone whose life has been shaped around a painful childhood incident, will thank her for being so honest, so unflinching in her backward glance. I wish I could thank her for what she must have had to face and remember in the retelling of her story. I could barely breathe through parts of this. Well done.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2017-08-14

Thank you

Thank you for sharing your story. As a woman who's been overweight all of my life and over 300 lbs for more than 10 years, listening to this was very relatable and oddly cathartic. It's exactly what I needed at a time in my life I'm trying to understand and accept myself but am struggling to do so. Your story put into words how I've felt most of my life. Thank you.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Sarah L. Larson
  • 2017-12-04

Confusing

I read this book because I wanted to learn more about the author and embrace her story. I respect her and it. But the contradiction in it was so difficult to receive. So so many times throughout, I heard that she is uncomfortable with the attention she receives from her body, yet eats to try to disappear. That she wants to be seen and respected, yet when she’s seen and given attention and spoken to directly, it’s too much. She thinks fit people exist to rub it in her face, yet is angry when she’s treated as if her obesity makes others feel the same way. She prefaces the book with it being a “bare all” diary of sorts, yet multiple times writes “I don’t dare share the details.” She refuses to forgive (her right), yet in turn refuses herself any possible improvement in her recovery that may come with forgiveness. It reads as if so many pathways to her fulfillment are understandable and palpable, but she refuses to pursue them, just because. I, and many many other women and men, have suffered at the hands of others in the same way as her. But becoming who you truly are in the form you want to be requires making the decision, for yourself, to rise above. This book was confusing and frustrating. I wanted to look deeply into Roxanne’s eyes and soak in her story and offer consolation and strength and hug her, but then I’d be pushed away for wanting to do so.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Bradley
  • La Crosse, WI, United States
  • 2018-11-05

Wasted Opportunity

While this book did help me to understand the suffering of rape victims and the morbidly obese, it reads more like a therapy session than a memoir. All tell, no show, and the telling alternates between resentful and self-pitying, “over and over and over again” (one of her favorite phrases, in fact). While I can imagine being gang raped at twelve could result in a morbid relationship with food, her claim that being raped made her consciously decide to get as fat as possible to avoid being raped again rings more like a rationalization than a direct cause. And what about morbidly obese people who don’t have the excuse of having been raped? Do they deserve to suffer the shame Gay resents society for saddling her with, or are our addictions and our bodies much more complicated than that and simply nobody else’s damn business? And her claim to have gone through so many (seemingly countless by her count) “long” and unsatisfying relationships while most of us can count the relationships we’ve had, both satisfying and not, on our ten digits by her age, doesn’t jibe with her claim that society shuns fat bodies. She claims this book was “the hardest thing” she’s ever written, but I think she should have had to work much, much harder to make it a story to enthrall readers instead of an angry and defensive confession to an imaginary therapist. Literary stars get to publish anything they want, seemingly without editors’ input, these days. I’d say beware of all the five-star adulation on this one, and go read Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings if you want a truly great memoir by a black woman who was raped as a young girl and turned her suffering into art.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Erica
  • 2018-07-19

an ok book

The subject matter is really interesting but I wasn't a fan of her writing. I'm always partial to buying audio books of autobiographies when the author reads it themselves and I think she was a very good choice for that here. But the writing didn't hit the right mix of personal story and cultural/social analysis for me, it seemed disorganized and at times repetitive. I can't exactly articulate why this was a miss for me but maybe you will enjoy it more.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Jacqueline McLemore
  • Beachwood, OH, United States
  • 2017-08-06

I see myself & the world differently

Something in me has shifted because I read this book. I have the beginning of more empathy for myself & others. I have followed the author on Twitter for awhile; I have always appreciated her perspectives & enjoyed her humor & wit. I know this book was not easy for her to write, so I am grateful that she persisted. It is an excellently crafted memoir.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful