Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Book Review: Hunger- Roxane Gay

I'm getting back to my blogging roots by returning to doing some book reviews as I read them. My approach to reviews is to look at them from a teaching perspective. Would I use the book in my classroom? What age level is it appropriate for? Which students might it speak to etc. Hopefully this is helpful to you.

The Review:
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay is a memoir dealing with Gay's relationship with her weight and how it affected/affects the relationships in her life. I listened to this book on tape and I'm glad I did. She reads the book aloud and her inflection really helps the reader to connect even more with the story. It truly added a personal touch.

I liked the book. I'm glad I read it. As someone who has never been significantly overweight it really made me think about how being overweight/obese affects people in ways I'd never considered. It also gave a lot of insight into relationships that I found valuable.

Who Should Read it:
Frankly, everyone should read it. I would say that I think this is a college level book. Some mature seniors in high school could read it but it's heavy. I think female students will get more out of it and students who don't necessarily identify as heterosexual may also get a bit more from it as well. Male students could learn a lot from it, but may not be able to identify with it in the same way. I also think that students struggling with their weight would really identify with Gay in the book.

I read the book as an option for my college's Common Read program where the whole college reads the same book and it's integrated into as many classes and co-curriculars as possible.  Viewing it from that lens, I don't think it's the right book for the Common Read program. The narrative jumps around in ways that didn't always make sense to me and I think many of our students wouldn't be able to follow it well. I also think the content might be to heavy for general courses and would be better suited in courses like women's studies, dietetics, counseling etc.

 Teaching the Book:
As stated above I think this book would do best in contextualized courses rather than English Composition for example. I would be wary using it in a high school setting but may personally recommend it to specific students. It is a great mentor text for a memoir as it demonstrates clearly how to tell your life story in the context of one aspect of your life.

While I'm not a big proponent of trigger warnings I do think it's important that instructors are aware of potentially disturbing scenes. For this book in particular letting students know ahead of time should not be a "spoiler" or take anything away from the book.

The book goes into some detail about a gang rape. It also discusses domestic violence and emotional abuse.

Reading Level:
While no reading level seems to be available for this book I would put it firmly in the 11th-college range. The language is not necessarily difficult but the content and the structure of the book make it challenging. The not completely linear narrative can be tough to follow at times and would take an advanced reader to follow.

Have you read it? Will you use it in class? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Thanks for stopping by,

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