This memoir by Roxane Gay — an author, celebrated feminist, and educator — is the story of her experience as a person going through life extremely fat. She reveals early on that she had been raped at the young age of 12 years, and, sadly, did not feel able to tell anyone about it for years. Her way of coping was to eat in order to gain weight, to make herself unappealing so that she would protect herself from letting that ever happen again. Unfortunately, it also had an impact on everything else in her life as well.
While the book does tell the story of her life, regrettably it does so in a very rambling, stream-of-consciousness sort of way that is extraordinarily repetitive. There are segments that wind back around to prior themes and scenes that are repeated over and over again, much like her thoughts.
Nevertheless, it is also extremely enlightening and enables the reader to really understand and what it means to be in the shoes of someone who, as she describes, takes up the space that she does. Her descriptions of having to research restaurants in advance to assess the seating situation, for example, is something that I might not have appreciated. Because of her size, she cannot feel comfortable in most chairs with arms, nor in most booths that have a fixed distance between the seat and the table. Hence, she checks that there will be seating that can accommodate her before she will go to a particular restaurant. Sometimes, when she doesn’t, and she has to sit in a chair with arms, she sustains bruises that cause her pain that can last for days.
This broke my heart.
There is a daily onslaught of taunts, sidebar commentary from strangers, suggestions – people even taking items out of her shopping cart at the supermarket! Having to endure the humiliations that people throw at her, both intentionally and unintentionally is both unfair and relentless.
So while the writing and probably more so the editing of this book is not ideal, I think the author is incredibly brave in sharing her experience with all of us. I think it is important for people to understand how it feels to walk in her shoes so that we can all be a little kinder to those who are different sizes than we are.