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 her 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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