Bi Book Club: Hunger


Photo: Eva Blue/Flickr

Welcome to the Bi Book Club. Sometimes, I’ll be reading a book and then realize, this is so bi. Then I wonder, who can I share this with and how? Bi Book Club is the answer. We’ll be talking about books that offer nuanced bi characters, conversations about bisexuality, and awesome bi role models. Here’s how it’s going to work. First, there will be a brief description of the book, as spoiler-free as possible, and why you should read it. Then, there is a GIANT SPOILER ALERT followed by a more in-depth description of the book.

Roxane Gay’s (#Bi2) 2017 memoir, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, is what inspired me to start this column. I started reading it yesterday because it was at the library and seemed like a book I should read. I like Roxane Gay’s writing, I know that she’s bi, I vaguely remember reading reviews of the book when it came out, so why not? When I finished it this morning, I was blown away. I firmly believe that this should be required reading for every woman and anyone who ever interacts with women.

In the book, Roxane Gay tracks her relationship with her body through her childhood, a traumatic rape when she was 12, and into adulthood. She explores what it means to be fat, what it means to be a woman, what it means to be black, what it means to be kinky, and what it means to be bi in the US today. She is painfully honest about her own self-doubt and insecurities but, ultimately, that honesty is liberating for herself and the reader. Hearing a successful, intelligent woman echo so many things I have thought, but never dared to say out loud, forced me to contextualize and reconsider my own insecurities. Basically, you should read it; it’s really good.


Roxane Gay is fat and so am I. I’m not as fat as her, I’m not even what she calls Lane Bryant fat, but every time I go to the doctor I get the print out explaining how I should eat more whole foods, exercise more, and try to lower my weight.  One would think that the differences in our fatness would change our internal monologues, that our doubts would be different, but they are not. There are things that I don’t have to worry about because I am smaller than her: I can climb stairs, fit in chairs, walk quickly. But the deeper desire to make myself small, to not invade others’ space, to be invisible, to be acceptable, was achingly familiar.

Other than the fat, I am healthy. I am active. I eat lots of veggies and not a lot of sweets. I have lost weight, only to find that it didn’t make me any happier. One of my most vivid memories of what I think of as the “bad times” is getting to the gym for my evening run (I had already done my morning resistance training) only to find that I had forgotten to throw my sports bra in the gym bag. I was 20 or 21, sitting in my car in a parking lot in Pennsylvania, on the phone with my mom in Oregon, sobbing hysterically because I was going to miss a workout. At that point I was doing resistance training 5 mornings a week and long evening runs 3 days a week. I was eating 800 calories a day. I was avoiding social situations because I wouldn’t be able to carefully measure and log everything I ate. I wasn’t skinny. I was thinner and I made it down to “a healthy weight” by doing this. The doctor congratulated me, my family and friends complimented me, people were kinder to me. I was still a size 8, a healthy size, but not the size where people start to worry about disordered eating.

I’m sitting here at a size 12/14, overweight, and never want to be a size 8 or  a “healthy weight” again, especially not if it means I have to be that 21 year old woman, sobbing in the car, again.

My story is completely different and yet exactly the same as Roxane Gay’s. I worked so hard to discipline my unruly body, I did it in the most unhealthy and unproductive way, but it didn’t matter. I was still being congratulated for disciplining my body.

That’s what Hunger came down to for me. We are told, by society, to discipline our unruly bodies. Body positive folks, feminists, and well-intentioned bystanders tell us to celebrate our unruly bodies, but very few people tell us how to live with our unruly bodies. Loving yourself is wonderful, but how does that help you when you literally don’t fit in a chair, when people assume you are less than because of your color, your shape, or your gender? How are we supposed to navigate a world that is so inherently inhospitable to us?

Hunger continuously returns back to the subjects of Roxane Gay’s fatness and her trauma, but what I love is that it really isn’t about those either. It’s about creating relationships, a life, romance, happiness. When she talked about her bisexuality I was thrilled. She came out as gay to her family first. She did it for a multitude of reasons, one of which was she believed she was gay. She knew she was attracted to women, ergo she must be gay. This was complicated by the fact that she was still afraid of relationships with men, but at some point she had internalized what so many of us have. If you are attracted to the opposite sex you are straight, if you’re attracted to the same sex, you are gay. Like many before her, she struggled with being a “bad” lesbian because she was still attracted to, and still fantasized about, men. Even our sexuality is unruly.

Roxane Gay explores all the ways that her body is unruly: her tattoos, her height, her sexuality, her size, her race, her gender, and the obstacles that these create. She doesn’t ask for our sympathy, in fact, she uses these experiences to consider other people’s unruly bodies, to have a deeper appreciation for the obstacles that they face. In a way, the book offers no answers; there is no solution for how to navigate a society that is hostile to your body, that wants your body to disappear, to be disciplined, to be something other than itself. It did, however, reassure me that I am not alone; that my own conflicted relationship with my body is far from unique, and that I’m allowed to acknowledge and explore the advantages and disadvantages of my unruly body without shame or guilt.

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Talia Squires
Talia Squires is Editor-in-chief of Talia has a degree in German Literature from Bryn Mawr College and a Master's in Critical Studies from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. She's obsessed with good food, fantastic wine, and trashy television. She lives in LA with her husband and fluffy Lhasa Apso.