Why did you write this book?
I didn't want to write this book at all but while thinking about an idea for my next novel the thought kept coming to me about the assumption that some people have about FAT people. People tend to assume the reason why you are not losing weight is because you are not doing what is required: exercise so for me it became important for me to share what its like to live in this world
Whats your underlining story behind your FAT body?
At the age of 12, I was ganged raped and as a religious young girl I didn't understand why it happened to me so unexpectedly. So to prevent a next time, I made a deliberate choice to eat alot to become stronger and bigger. I figured if I was strong enough, I could fight them off and if i was FAT they probably wouldn't be interested anyway
Why didn't you tell your parents about the incident?
I was simply scared. As a catholic, we were taught that pre-marital sex is a sin and I was certain of going to hell
The next day after the trauma, the boys went to school telling everyone a different story that I wanted it and people at school started calling a a slut and I didn't think anyone would believe me as it would have been my words against theirs.
What are the effects of living in your body?
I personally encounter alot especially when am at the supermarket and I can hear people making commentaries about the items in my cart and in some cases people take things out of my cart. As a writer at my book events, some people would randomly send me unsolicited nutrition advice which is just insane
Its almost as if the bigger you are the smaller your world becomes because as a fat person, you don't fit in public areas like cinema seats, airplane seats, etc which are usually not roomy enough for the average person. Sometimes, when I buy 2 tickets not to encroach on other's seat and then I get questioned while boarding why I bought 2 tickets
People simply judge you by saying you ll die earlier before your time while they smoke cigarettes everyday and that you are wasting hospital expenses so you get this constant sense that you don't belong and people feel no remorse about been cruel about it
Why did you write a book without a "happy ending" ?
Generally when people write about weight there is a woman standing with half-sized body of their pant on the cover and she's smiling "look what I achieved" People always expect that you have solved the problem for you to write a book like this and I couldn't write that but I believe my body is certainly not the problem.
Just like many other things, its a work in progress but whats more important for me is how I can have a normal relationship with food and eating and how do I write my story in a way that that is not self pity but that I can say "this is my story now" rather than having it projected on me
What would you say to 12 years old Roxane if you could go back?
Talk to your parents about the trauma and trust them to help you because I think if I had opened up earlier about it I think I wouldn't have turned to the coping mechanisms as I did. Also, I would have gotten the type of help and support necessary for someone going through such trauma
Thank you for reading
About Roxane Gay
The daughter of prosperous Haitian immigrants (an engineer and a homemaker), Gay moved often growing up, but thought of Omaha as her home. Her sheltered childhood came to an end when, at the age of 12, she was gang-raped by a group of boys, one of whom she knew and had a crush on. Because she’d willingly gone with the boy to a cabin in the woods, and because even after the assault she continued to see the boy — who was handsome and popular like the boys in the Sweet Valley High books she loved — Gay kept it a secret from her parents and internalized the shame. She ate to protect herself, to make herself less attractive, to comfort herself, to punish herself. She writes: “I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe.” In her late 20s, at 6 feet 3 inches tall, she reached, at her heaviest, 577 pounds. She reveals the number gingerly, aware of the prurience it will evoke, but also to confront “the truth” of her body.