Because Roxane Gay writes with such raw honesty in Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body it will be difficult for me to write a blog post in response. The story was so powerful and HERS that it is daunting to attempt to reflect upon it. But because I loved the book and want other people to read it (and I do have a book blog – ha!!!) I will give it a shot.
Roxane Gay, also the author of bestselling Bad Feminist: Essays, is fat, very fat. She uses this word – “fat” – about herself over and over.
“When I use the world I am not insulting myself. I am describing myself.”
Much of her story is about living as a fat person in this world, including the embarrassment, the despair, the hopelessness.
But her memoir is also about WHY she is fat.
Can you imagine quitting your job and selling your house and possessions to travel the world for an indefinite amount of time?
I can, and I can’t.
Adventurous Leslie, who existed in college and for a few years afterwards, would consider this. Mom Leslie, who exists now, of course would not.
Adventurous Leslie who is somewhere still deep inside of me (maybe??) especially appreciated The Yellow Envelope: One Gift, Three Rules, and A Life-Changing Journey Around the World, a memoir by Kim Dinan that reads as a travel and relationship diary. It is honest, engaging, and beautifully descriptive about many places in the world I will likely never see firsthand.
It is, however, the additional element of the “yellow envelope” that moves the memoir beyond just another story of a couple traveling the world.
I’m reading the new Bruce Springsteen memoir Born to Run slowly, savoring it.
A third of the way through, I’m to the point where he has released his first album Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.
A tidbit of what he says about his Asbury Park album:
…the lyrics and spirit of Greetings come from an unself-consicous place. Your early songs emerge from a moment when you’re writing with no sure prospect of ever being heard. Up until then, it’s been just you and your music. This only happens once.
I listened to the album again and heard it differently than before – an awesome experience with this new insight.
So far I’ve learned about his childhood, his relationship with his parents and grandparents, his inspirations, and the source of some of his songs, for example “The River” is a tribute to his sister and brother-in-law.
I’ve learned how hard he truly worked for his first opportunities. Natural talent – yes he had that – but he worked his a$$ off to get better. He was so focused and he didn’t even have a drink of alcohol until after he recorded his first album (the funny story of his drinking Tequila for the first time is what I just read about!).
An elegy by definition is “a poem of serious reflection, typically a lament for the dead.”
J.D. Vance’s new memoir, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, currently a bestseller and a hot item with a long waiting list at any public library is certainly a serious reflection on his growing up a “hillbilly,” and it does express grief for his grandparents, both for whom I cried real tears while reading this book.
Early on he says the book is about how this culture (Kentucky Appalachia and Ohio Rust Belt) is known for “reacting to bad circumstances in the worst way possible. It’s about a culture that increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it.”
Vance can talk about these problems in a way others can’t get away with because he lived through it himself and somehow came out a Yale-educated lawyer.