This Body Is, with Roxane Gay

Book Reviews, Soul + Spirit

My dad’s signature greeting to family relatives, friends and people he meets has always been, roughly translated from Tagalog: “Looks to me like you’re getting skinny!” It doesn’t matter if it was the first time my dad has ever seen the person, or if they’ve just seen each other the day before.

Cue a hearty laugh, a grateful smile, a relieved sigh; the greeting always yields the intended effect. At an early age, I knew that being skinny was a compliment. It was a good sign. If one was gaining weight or on the heavier side though, one could expect a frown, a hushed tone, a look that implies shame.

So I knew my dad was on to something: losing weight = looking good = feeling good. It’s a brilliant formula, but only if you were actually losing weight. But that doesn’t matter.

When I picked up Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (Amazon | Indiebound) by Roxane Gay, I only had the faintest notions on what it was about. All I know is that I have to read Gay’s work — from An Untamed State to Bad Feminist (I’ve yet to read Difficult Women) as she’s become one of my favorite writers (in spite of that tweet suggesting Lebron join the Golden State Warriors).

3

Gay’s book is about hunger in many forms: that adolescent need to fit in and be wanted, a yearning to speak the truth without pain, the comforting solace of food, the promise of safety, to being desired and desiring other bodies.

At the core of Hunger is how Gay has turned to food and literature among other things to keep herself safe, after being raped by a group of boys when she was younger. She didn’t know how to tell her parents for fear of hurting them, so she buried the painful truth and built herself an armor of defense, a fortress for one.

1

In a culture run by capitalism, the need to cater to the male gaze and the unending dissatisfaction brought about by the media and so many industries to turn a profit come first. 

Coming Out on Faith with Anne Lamott

Book Reviews, Soul + Spirit

Ash Wednesday came early this year. It was supposed to be about preparation, about consecration, about moving toward Easter, toward resurrection and renewal. It offers us a chance to break through the distractions that keep us from living the basic Easter message of love, of living in wonder rather than doubt. For some people, it is about fasting, to symbolize both solidarity with the hungry and the hunger for God.

I started reading Anne Lamott’s Small Victories: Improbable Moments of Grace a day after Good Friday. The day was “Black Saturday,” a day of mourning for Catholics. It’s that in-between time after the death of Jesus and his resurrection the following day.

The day before, I was still finishing up my post on Ed Catmull’s book and my mom casually asked if I still went to church. I didn’t have a better answer than “I’m not practicing” so that’s what I said. Dammit. That was a lie, followed by Catholic guilt.

For a long time I considered myself an atheist, not believing in God/dess or a higher power. I always questioned his/her/their existence, having witnessed a lot of suffering as I grew up. As I got older I became agnostic and eventually, I turned to Buddhism, finding its teachings and practices a much more suitable fit for the person I want to be. For the person I try to be, instead of feeling bad that I hadn’t followed my parents’ religious footsteps 

I was learning the secrets of life: that you could become the woman you’d dared to dream of being, but to do so you were going to have to fall in love with your own crazy, ruined self.