Roxane Gay is the author the New York Times bestseller Bad Feminist the tag on the cover of the book tells the reader. This is an easy book to read in terms of thin chapters and the subject matter of need and greed and what makes us what we are. This is right up there with the classic, Lucy Grealy, Autobiography of a Face.
Chapter 1 of Gay’s autobiography is one sentence long.
Everybody has a story and a history. Here I offer mine with a memoir of my body and my hunger.
The story of my body is not a story of triumph. This is not a weight-loss memoir. There will be no picture of a thin version of me, my slender body emblazoned across the book’s cover, with me standing in one leg of my former fatter self’s jeans. This is not a book that will offer motivation. I don’t have any powerful insight into what it takes to overcome an unruly body and unruly appetites. Mine is not a success story. Mine is, simply, a true story.
If we flip to the last thin chapter Gay offers a summation of her life. What makes it interesting is Gay, like Grealy, has over the years developed the tools of writing to interrogate what she has become, and what she might have become, had she not been traumatised. An honest account of a body taking up more space than it should, but not an apologist account. Art not for art’s sake, but for truth’s sake.
When I was twelve years old I was raped and then I ate and ate to build my body into a fortress. I was a mess and then I grew up and away from that terrible day and became a different kind of mess…I am as healed as I am ever going to be.
I guess we are all in some ways our own kind of mess, but Gay has ‘found her voice’. I like that. Sometimes that’s enough. But most of the time I wonder if anybody’s listening.