This memoir of suffering and survival subtly questions not just how we judge ‘fat’, but how we dare to judge at all

Fat is more than a feminist issue – as this extraordinary memoir by novelist and essayist Roxane Gay reveals. Gay’s last book, Bad Feminist, became a New York Times bestseller and revealed her to be a writer unfazed by inconvenient truths and a champion of women – especially gay and black women. Hunger tells a story that must have been as hard to write as it is disturbing to read. She does not duck from telling us, early on, that at 6ft 3in tall, she weighed, at her heaviest, 577 pounds: “That is a staggering number, one I hardly believe, but at one point, that was the truth of my body.” She does – and does not – know, she says, how things got so out of hand. To some extent, she is on the side of Susie Orbach [author of Fat Is a Feminist Issue]. She remarks with devastating simplicity: “This is what most girls are taught – that we should be slender and small. We should not take up space.” But her book is a bid to take up space in another sense, to tell a story that wants to shrink into invisibility yet needs to be told. A personal story, with implications for us all.

Terrible to think of a 12-year-old child willing herself to go on as though nothing had happened

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