Best selling author Roxane Gay spoke in Tacoma Wednesday evening to read from her latest book, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. The book was selected by Mayor Marilyn Strickland as the Tacoma Reads 2017 book of the year.
As evidenced by the enthusiastic crowd that gathered for the sold-out event at Lincoln High School, Gay — in her own words — is about as famous as a writer can be. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, Salon, and The Guardian, Gay is a New York Times bestselling author, founder of Tiny Hardcore Press, an English professor at Purdue University, and the first black woman to be a lead writer for Marvel Comics, to name just a few of her achievements.
Gay is perhaps best known for her 2014 bestselling essay collection Bad Feminist. This book, and the majority of her work, centers around the intersections of feminism, gender, race, and LGBTQ politics within the wider culture. Her mass appeal stems from the sense of humanity she brings to topics that can be polarizing and dryly intellectual.
On Hunger, Gay said, “It’s the book I least wanted to write, so I knew I had to.” This memoir is distinctly different from her other work because she turns her sight inward. Hunger tells the unpolished, deeply personal story about Gay’s struggle with food and the harsh realities of being overweight in today’s society. To be clear, though, this is not a story of a woman overcoming the odds, shedding the pounds, and finding happiness. This book is the antithesis.
At the event, Mayor Strickland said she chose the book for Tacoma Reads this year to foster conversation in the community around difficult topics presented in the work. Onstage, Gay claimed she was surprised to hear that her book had been chosen for the city-wide program. Murmurs in the audience also claimed surprise and delight that a literary event in Tacoma could draw such big crowd and a distinguished celebrity author. The line for book signings snaked around the auditorium for over an hour after the talk concluded.
Tacoma Public Library purchased more than 100 hard copies of Hunger (most of which are consistently checked out), and has made the eBook and digital audiobook available for unlimited download through the library’s website. All of Roxane’s Gay’s books — as well as her collaborative Marvel comic, World of Wakanda — are available in various formats across all library branches.