How to Read a Roxane Gay Book

When I was younger, I used to be devoted to certain authors for years on end, aiming to read through their entire body of books. It started with Enid Blyton, and as I grew, I was similarly obsessed over Ann M. Martin, Agatha Christie, and J.K. Rowling, among others. Since school ended, however, I don’t think I can name a single contemporary, 21st-century author of whose I’ve read more than two books.

Roxane Gay might be the only exception.

Reading a Roxane Gay book is an immersive experience like no other for me, and while her subject matter is sharp and difficult to digest, her writing flows in a deceptively smooth and easy way, making her books hard to DNF or even put down (which I always regret later). She is also one of those rare authors whose books elicit visible, visceral reactions from me.

Here is me reading Bad Feminist:

Me reading An Untamed State was five hours of this:

With Difficult Women, I tried very hard to pause between stories, but mostly failed, so it looked somewhat like this:

As her latest book, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, releases today, I thought I’d warn everybody out there about the path the book will take you on. Like me, you will start on a confident note:

But things will quickly disintegrate:

Assume fetal position and rock back and forth:

Try to hold back your emotions:

Fail miserably:

Some days after you’re done, you will think about it when you least expect to, and find out you’re not quite over it:

So even though I didn’t follow my own advice, try to take breaks and inhale the book in small breaths, and do not read it in public. That’s how to read a Roxane Gay book. Hunger is one of the most honest and heartbreaking pieces of writing I have ever read, but well worth feeling all the feels.


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