Hunger by Roxane Gay

 

At the risk of oversimplifying things, Hunger is a memoir of Roxane Gay’s experience of being fat in a world that is openly disdainful of fat people. On a less superficial level, the book is a deeply moving personal account of how trauma, desire, loneliness, and language can influence and shape our reality, and colour our experience of the world. I have every respect for Roxane Gay as it is an almost insurmountable task to lay oneself bare and vulnerable in order to write the truth of one's existence. Yet, she manages to do this in compelling and powerful prose.

However, what I took away from Hunger was more than just the message of body positivity. The memoir also made me realise how much work we have left to do if we were to be truly accepting and inclusive as a society, that we have to be more considerate of the realities of the bodies of others, bodies that are not like ours. Roxane herself shares an account of her experience at an event with Gloria Steinem who was promoting her book, My Life on the Road. During the event, she was seated on stage with Steinem and a sign language interpreter. Shortly after the talk started, Gay noticed some murmuring in the audience. It turns out that some of them could not see Steinem and Gay, and had requested for the interpreter to move. The latter was torn between trying to please the audience and perform her duty, but Gay urged her to stay put. She felt that it was more important that the interpreter be in sight than for everyone to see her. Gay attributed her sensitivity to her experience of living in a larger body. At that moment, she shared that she was thankful for her body, unruly as it might be.

This is a memoir of (my) body because, more often than not, stories of bodies like mine are ignored or dismissed or derided. People see bodies like mine and make their assumptions. They think they know the why of my body. They do not.

If I must share my story, I want to do so on my terms, without the attention that inevitably follows. I do not want pity or appreciation or advice. I am not brave or heroic. I am not strong. I am not special. I am one woman who has experienced something countless women have experienced. I am a victim who survived.

by Dawn Tan

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