Author Roxanne Gay latest project challenges writers to redefine body image

Writer Roxanne Gay speaks onstage during the ‘Feminist AF’ panel, part of Vulture Festival LA Presented by AT&T at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on November 18, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Vulture Festival)

Riding high on the heels of author Roxanne Gay‘s book, “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body” published last summer, Gay asked 24 writers to answer the question: “What does it mean to live in an unruly body?” The project came out of Gay’s memoir, in which she recounted uncomfortable details of weight gain borne from a sexual assault at age 12.

The collection of responses came from people such as Kiese Laymon, Carmen Maria Machado and Larissa Pham and will be published by the website, Medium throughout April, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Gay explained that Medium approached her last year wanting to work together on what they are calling a “pop-up magazine.”

“I thought about what I might want to do, and with Hunger just being out at the time, I thought it would be great to do something about bodies and broaden the conversation that I was contributing to with Hunger about what it means to live in a human body,” Gay told The Hollywood Reporter. “I decided to approach 24 writers in all, and I just asked the question, “What does it mean to live in an unruly body?” That was the only prompt or guideline. And then this came together.”

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Gay said she was surprised when people’s responses ran the gamut.

“They wrote about gender, size, gun violence, wrestling, sex, ability,” said Gay. “The range of issues from that one prompt, with the way that writers responded, was wonderful, and affirmed that I made very good choices in the writers that I approached.”

Those that stood out

When asked if anyone’s story stood out to her in particular, she mentioned several.

“I love the way that Kiese Laymon took the prompt and wrote about gun violence and being a large Black man, and how that’s why he’ll never own a gun,” she said. “I don’t want to give too much of it away, but it’s just really innovative, the way he approaches both bodies and violence.”

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She added, “Tracy Lynne Oliver writes about having a conflicted relationship with her body and how, looking back, she gets to reinvent her relationship to her body, and realize that the times she hated her body, her body was actually exactly perfect as it was—there’s a real poignancy to that. And I think anything Randa Jarrar does is remarkable and very bold. Matthew Salesses wrote a beautiful essay about the Asian body and his wife’s cancer and health care and it will break your heart, but in the best possible way.”

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Gay told The Hollywood Reporter that she hopes people are able to understand each other better after experiencing the project.

“I hope that readers take away a broader understanding of the lived experiences of others, and appreciate the importance of the body, and how we think about the body and how we see the body,” she said.