June has been…something. I mean, A LOT has happened. Not only did I attend my daughter’s high school graduation and participate in AP exam scoring for the first time, but I also got a new job way on the other side of the country. And, yes, I did just buy a house last year. So, I am officially in moving mode and prep mode and general my short-lived vacation is over mode. 😩
Obviously, I am happy about the new job. The emoji is used for dramatic effect because I didn’t plan to be moving (again!) this summer.
I also finished one other book this month:
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Roxane Gay can tell her story however she wants and in the best way that serves her. For me, though, I read maybe the first half of this in one sitting and then it took me over a week to finish the rest because it got very circular and repetitive–much like reading someone’s diary or journal. (I know this because when I look back at my old journals, I am always struck by how often I circle around the same issue(s) until I decide to take some sort of action.) Hence the rating of 2.5 stars, rounded up.
A few things stuck out to me while reading this:
1. She mentions that she gained weight specifically to make herself invisible after her weight, and she also briefly mentions anorexic women and how they make themselves smaller and how she has a morbid fascination and even envy of those women. However, she doesn’t ever seem to make the explicit connection that she is doing the same thing as those women–that they are using the same weapon (f00d) in different ways (deprivation vs. excess).
2. She gained weight because of her trauma (getting raped when she was 12), which makes this, really, a glimpse into someone who suffers from PTSD and has chosen food and overeating to deal with that trauma yet has, in some ways, caused herself more suffering because of how she treats her trauma. (She explicitly talks about the ways her weight gain has limited her AND how she limits herself in other ways because of her weight gain.) This is not unusual for sufferers of PTSD.
3. She constantly refers to her body as a cage. This is NOT a narrative about someone who has gotten better. This is a narrative of someone who is dealing. I mention that because if you like a happier or more hopeful ending, then this memoir does not deliver on that front. At one point, she says, “I am as healed as I am going to be” and given that her body is a cage and the book is mostly written in present tense and it is still raw and painful–though she clearly states that she is in a better place than she used to be because she is making better choices about how she treats herself–I found this unbearably sad. That is in large part because…
4. She mentions therapy one time, and it’s something she does because her high school or college counselor makes her and she is not honest during the process. Obviously, though this is a personal account, only Gay knows how personal it is. She could very well have revisited therapy or something else after that. However, it’s not mentioned. Therefore, I feel it imperative to say that if you read this memoir and you relate to it–especially the parts about not deserving good things or not deserving to be treated well by people or obsessing about your body/weight and mistreating yourself–and you think that one day you’ll figure out how to treat yourself better or whatever, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO IT ALONE. There is therapy and there are support groups and some of these things are free or available on a sliding scale. And I’m not talking about losing weight. I am talking about loving yourself and allowing yourself to be loved.
Anyway, I obviously have strong feelings about that last point, and I’m not going to talk about most of it in a public forum, but I have my own experience with it that I am willing to discuss via private message or email.
5. This is not a memoir about overcoming. This is a memoir about being in survival mode, right now. I related to a lot of this, and I’m glad I read it. There’s a definitely a place for this type of memoir, though (or because, honestly) it is different from most.
That brings my total books read for the month of June to four.
- Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay (adult, non-fiction)
- Not a Self-Help Book: This Misadventures of Marty Wu by Yi Shun Lai (adult)
- Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han (YA)
- Blame by Michelle Huneven (adult, audiobook)
Truth: I think I was too generous in my original review of Blame because I hate it more the more I think about it.
I have too much to say about TV in this post, but I will note that I did rewatch The Good Place, I have been watching Still Star-Crossed, and I have been trying (again) to finish Jane the Virgin. My life has gotten a touch distracting, though, and I am once again behind on all of the TV I want to watch. Mostly because I keep playing Bejeweled instead.
Maybe July will be different.
10 thoughts on “June 2017 Wrap Up”
Congratulations on the new job and good luck with the move! That sounds like an intensely difficult book to read… maybe something lighter this month? Or, you know, serious but less related to personal circumstances, like hard sf?
Thanks! And yes, I started reading Sarah Dessen’s latest. Nice and light and summer-y. So far, at least.
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I have been trying to decide if I will read Hunger, but I’m just not sure. I like Gay as a writer and thinker, but I also believe that healing is possible when you do the really hard work and I think I’d be very frustrated by a book about trauma and PTSD where the takeaway is surviving, “I’m as healed as I’m going to be.” Perhaps there was something healing in writing the book for her? TV…. since my son loved The Good Place so much, I decided to try him with Veronica Mars, which we are currently marathoning. I am sure you can imagine how much I’m loving it when I tell you that the last show he wanted to marathon was Party of Five, which nearly killed me. Veronica Mars seems like the height of realism by comparison.
Omg, that Party of Five comment made me laugh. Hahahaha. It’s also very earnest, which is…yeah.
And, yes, I did find a lot of Gay’s book frustrating, for the very reason you noted. I can see where some would definitely want to read that type of narrative, though. It’s just not necessarily for me.
Wow, best wishes for your move and the new job. I heard Roxanne Gay interviewed on NPR a few weeks ago, interesting to hear her talk about the book. Perhaps it was part of the therapy, though I didn’t hear her say that, only that it was something she “had” to write. Thanks for sharing all your points about it.
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Congratulations on the new job. although packing and moving really sucks. I appreciate your review here. I’ve been looking at this book because I’ve read some positive reviews, but wasn’t sure if I was up for it. Thanks to you, I’ll just wait.
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Congratulations on the new job, and on the graduation! I also recently attended my son’s high school graduation, and it was a time of much rejoicing. Thanks for your thoughtful reviews.
I love how you broke down your thoughts into several key points that are readable, easy to follow, engaging, thoughtful, and honest. I’ve heard Roxane Gay speak in one of the video clips shared on social media, and I have debated with myself whether this is a book that would resonate with me. As a clinical psychologist, I appreciate deeply your thoughts about PTSD and the need to talk to someone about ongoing issues, past traumas, and how to deal. Perhaps I’d take a pass on this one until later. Hope the moving isn’t too stressful for you! 🙂
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Great review Akilah! I think this is the first time I read a review that was helpful. I’d thought about reading Gay’s memoir, but now I probably won’t. On a separate, yet related note, one of the suggestions of a “good” memoir is that there’s some resolution or “happy ending.” Apologies for all of these quotes, but you know, I have them there because some of this advice is to follow a formula. Anywho, it seems that the formula might be on to something. Many times people pick up a memoir in order to understand how someone went through something similar and came out with some hope. They usually don’t want to know the person is still struggling, but now that I’m writing this, maybe that would help us all in being more authentic about our everyday situations.
Yeah, I agree. I think that’s what I found less satisfying about the book. I expect a memoir to show me how the person came out of whatever their thing this, and this one definitely doesn’t do that. However, like you, I think the authenticity that this book shows is important because sometimes people just survive, and their stories are worth telling, too.
I also know it’s very American to want a happy ending or an ending with a glimpse of hope (and not that Gay’s story is without hope: she’s a successful writer, etc.). I remember reading African novels in a grad seminar and being so upset at how bleak they were–especially the endings. I have been conditioned to expect that upward tick at the end, and if I don’t get it, well. I am not a very happy reader.
(Funnily enough, most of the fiction I wrote in college/grad school had ambiguous and mostly unhappy endings. So!)
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