REVIEW: ‘Hunger: a Memoir of (My) Body’ by Roxane Gay

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TW: Rape, Mental health and abuse.

 This is a book about my body, about my hunger, and ultimately, this is a book about disappearing and being lost and wanting so very much, wanting to be seen and understood. This is a book about learning, however slowly, to allow myself to be seen and understood.

I’m ashamed to admit that Hunger is the first book by Roxane Gay that I’ve read. I say I’m ashamed because I feel that by now, I really should have read Bad Feminist but with an ever-growing reading list and my book-buying habit, I seldom read all the books I intend on reading. When I saw Hunger in a bookshop, I knew I had to not only buy it but read it before the summer was over. As a person who has struggled with food, I’m always fascinated by women who have a relationship, whether good or bad, with food. It was not until last year that I realised that not everyone thought obsessively about the food they ate. Many people simply eat because they want to, eat because they need to or both.

The first thing that struck me about Hunger is how open, honest and vulnerable Gay’s writing is. Watching her interviews and seeing her tweets, I thought she was impermeable. I always wished I could be as confident and strong as women like Roxane Gay, women who seemed far too intelligent and fulfilled to worry about superficial things like bodies; but this book makes it evident that like many of us, Gay has spent a lot time obsessing over her body. Continue reading “REVIEW: ‘Hunger: a Memoir of (My) Body’ by Roxane Gay”

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REVIEW: ‘The People in the Trees’ by Hanya Yanagihara

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TW: Child abuse, sexual abuse

A few months ago, a friend of mine gave me the book A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and I’ll admit the size intimidated me. I researched the author and was immediately interested in reading more from her. I found out that A Little Life was actually her second novel and that she had written The People in the Trees before but the novel did not gather as attention as A Little Life. So for my 21st birthday, when my flatmate asked what I wanted, I asked for The People in the Trees. The book is roughly based on the life of Dr D. Carleton Gajdusek, a Nobel Prize winning scientist who discovered a disease among a tribe in Papua New Guinea. However, later on in his life, he was found guilty of sexually abusing many of the children he adopted, these children were from Papua New Guinea. Yanagihara, takes this story and gives it life in her novel. The novel’s protagonist, Dr Norton Perina, a Nobel Prize winning doctor, discovered Selene syndrome, a medical condition that alters aging among the people of Ivu’ivu in the Micronesian country of U’ivu. Perina discovered that the reason a few people on the island lived for decades longer than the average life-expectancy on the island was because of their consumption of the Opa’ivu’eke, a rare turtle. Perina found that even though their bodies stopped ageing, their minds slowly regressed making some of them infantile. After decades of success, and after he adopted more than 40 children from the island, one of his children accused him of sexual abuse leading to his imprisonment. The novel takes the form of a memoir written by Perina and edited by Dr Ronald Kubodera, a close friend and colleague. Continue reading “REVIEW: ‘The People in the Trees’ by Hanya Yanagihara”

REVIEW: ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge

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TW: Racism, Violence and Misogyny

First things first, Reni Eddo-Lodge has done the work for us. She’s made a book that people of colour can readily give to all well-meaning white friends and colleagues that want to have a ‘discussion’ about racism. She’s put in all the mental and emotional labour to create a book that covers topics like structural racism, racism within feminism, racial bias in the criminal justice system, white privilege, class, gentrification and police brutality and when you read the book, you’ll see that there are many more themes and issues she discusses that I won’t bother listing for you. I say this book is for well-meaning white people because many people of colour, especially those of us who concern ourselves with race, gender and class, will find that they already know the argument she presents in this book. Even though there were some things discussed that I wasn’t aware of, by and large reading this book was reading and agreeing with what I already knew. However, this is not a weakness. This book is a powerful tool that draws from cultural, political and economic history as well as current affairs in order to show that structural racism is alive and thriving in Britain.

The book is divided into seven chapters: ‘Histories’, ‘The System’, ‘What is White Privilege?’, ‘Fear of a Black Planet’, ‘The Feminist Question’, ‘Race and Class’ and ‘There’s No Justice, There’s Just Us’. Honestly, I found some of these chapters boring and had to plough through them but that is not because of a failure of her writing, but instead because as I said before, I don’t need to be told what white privilege is. At the same time, some chapters really stood out to me. Continue reading “REVIEW: ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge”