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Jul 8

If Roxane Gay’s vulnerabilities motivate, what could her strengths do?: Paradkar – Toronto Star

To the multiplicities of characteristics and identities ascribed to Roxane Gay writer, author, New York Times bestseller, bisexual, woman, Black you can safely add giver.

Gay showed up at her sold-out event at the Trinity-St. Pauls United Church in Toronto on Wednesday evening, and she gave.

She gave herself to the rapt, mostly female audience, with whom she was in turn coquettish and serious, flirtatious (Im into ladies) and vulnerable (Ive hit a wall) at the launch of her book Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body.

Read more:

Roxane Gays deeply personal hunger explores relationship with her body

Today, I am a fat woman. I dont think I am ugly, she says in the book, about her six-foot-three frame and a few hundred pounds of weight. I dont hate myself in the way society would have me hate myself, but I do live in the world.

Yet you might also wonder if a woman who has put so much of herself in the book, despite describing herself as a shy, awkward person, would have anything left to give.

She does. She gave her time, telling organizers she would stay as long as it took to sign copies of her book, and the long line that snaked along the aisles for that signature suggested she wasnt doing it just for the publicity.

Gay also gave something less visible but powerful to her readers, who on Wednesday night came in various shapes and sizes: the permission to not be perfect, and the language with which to navigate those imperfections.

This is a memoir of (my) body because, more often than not, stories of bodies like mine are ignored or dismissed or derided, she writes in the beginning.

What she is not writing is a confessional, nor is it a diary; what she is not offering is a book that takes the complexities of size and race and sexuality and reduces them to sound-byte-sized morals such as love yourself as your are.

In a world where kindness is labelled as political correctness and cruelty is labelled freedom, she brings brave, raw honesty.

Its not just the gut-wrenching story of being raped as a 12-year-old, after which, she writes, I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe.

Its also the consequences of having to live with that body.

I am always uncomfortable or in pain. I dont remember what it is like to feel good in my body, to feel anything resembling comfort, she writes.

In the mating game, there is the gaze, the slight smile, the unconscious double take from a stranger, the lingering eye contact and countless other ways people find their attractiveness acknowledged by other men or women.

So much of that is challenged at the intersectionality of race and size.

People never ask me out. People never approach me, Gay said. I wouldnt know you were hitting on me unless you held up a sign. Im so used to being ignored. People are not interested in dating women like me. Part of it is dealing with the constant indifference. When people are interested in you, oftentimes they have specific ideas of how you are meant to be sexually. Theres this sense that your pleasure that you dont want to be pleasured. Thats not the case!

Only in my 40s have I been able to articulate I, too, have needs. This body is not a fortress. I need you to touch me like you mean it . . . like Im a person.

For victims of any kind of discrimination, baring your soul comes with risks attached, mostly the risk of ridicule from the cruel, the risk of having your trauma dissected and the risk of being disbelieved and challenged in insensitive ways.

Then there is also is the cruelty of unthinkingness. The people who insultingly equate the worth of this intellectual academic to her size, the mind-blowing amount of diet and exercise advice she gets, the man who wrote to say I dont know if you know this but exercise helps to lose weight, or the psychiatrist who asked her if shed heard of bariatric surgery (a chapter deals with that), and a reader from Montreal who offered buy her something for a modest $100 if she lost weight by going vegan for three months. (And if she didnt she would have to give him $150.)

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If Roxane Gay's vulnerabilities motivate, what could her strengths do?: Paradkar - Toronto Star

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