Download Hunger Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Hunger Summary

Hunger by Roxane Gay is the story of Gay's body and how her life has shaped who she is both physically and mentally.

After being raped as a young girl, Gay coped by eating until she was obese. At her highest weight, she was 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 577 pounds. This was after almost 20 years of overeating to cope with her negative feelings about her past trauma.

The book starts with Gay's reflections on her weight, the trauma that caused her to eat to cope, and the struggle to become healthier. She makes it clear that it isn't meant to be a diet memoir that inspires people to lose weight. It's a story about her life, framed by her ongoing struggle with her body. 

Gay discusses her childhood next, looking at old photos and discussing moments with her family. She moves on to talk about her rape. She was 12 when she was raped by a group of boys, including someone she considered a friend. She explains that as a good, Catholic girl, she didn't have a very clear understanding of what was happening. The description is frank and brutal.

Next, she explains how she started to overeat. Her mother, she says, didn't have a passion for cooking but loved her family and prepared solid meals for them. When she went away to a boarding school, she was able to eat out and order food at her leisure. As she says, "I was swallowing my secrets."

Gay continues explaining her life, including her attempts to lose weight and make friends. She was lonely and isolated until she found the internet in her 20s. She was able to connect to people online and gain a following for her writing on Internet sites. Gay attended college, then graduate school, working as a writer and teacher.

Gay writes about how being obesity affected her life. She writes about how it limited her and how she had to set boundaries with her parents so they wouldn't bring it up in every conversation. She discusses obesity in society and the dangerous methods that people use to try to lose weight. She explains that she hates herself, but there are also aspects of herself she likes. It took until she was in her 40s for her to recognize what she likes about herself.

In the end, Gay has healed as much as she is going to heal, she says. She's accepted who she is and she cares for herself. She says writing Hunger is the most difficult thing she's ever done and it's made her vulnerable –– but that it was necessary. 



Hunger by Roxane Gay begins with a gut-wrenching...

(The entire section is 669 words.)