A heart-rending debut memoir from the outspoken feminist and essayist.
Gay (Bad Feminist, 2014, etc.) pulls no punches in declaring that her story is devoid of “any powerful insight into what it takes to overcome an unruly body and unruly appetites.” Rather than a success story, it depicts the author, at 42, still in the throes of a lifelong struggle with the fallout from a harrowing violation in her youth. The author exposes the personal demons haunting her life—namely weight and trauma—which she deems “the ugliest, weakest, barest parts of me.” Much of her inner turmoil sprang from a devastating gang rape at age 12. “I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe,” she writes. Gay painfully recalls the “lost years” of her reckless 20s as a time when food, the anonymity of the internet, and creative writing became escapes and balms for loneliness. The author refers to her body as a “cage” in which she has become trapped, but her obesity also presents itself as a personal challenge to overcome the paralyzing psychological damage caused by rape. Broken into clipped, emotionally resonant chapters, Gay details a personal life spent grappling with the comfort of food, body hyperconsciousness, shame, and self-loathing. Throughout, the author is rightfully opinionated, sharply criticizing the media’s stereotypical portrayal of obesity and Oprah Winfrey’s contradictory dieting messages. She is just as engaging when discussing her bisexuality and her adoration for Ina Garten, who taught her “that a woman can be plump and pleasant and absolutely in love with food.” Gay clearly understands the dynamics of dieting and exercise and the frustrations of eating disorders, but she also is keenly in touch with the fact that there are many who feel she is fine just as she is. The author continues her healing return from brokenness and offers hope for others struggling with weight, sexual trauma, or bodily shame.
An intense, unsparingly honest portrait of childhood crisis and its enduring aftermath.