Friday, July 14, 2017

Roxane Gay reclaims her fat, but hates avocados.

Melinda Palacio

Roxane Gay and young fan, Gabby 

            On Wednesday, some 400 people, mostly women, filled the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in New Orleans to hear Roxane Gay in conversation with local author Maurice Ruffin about Gay's memoir, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. The event was hosted by Octavia Books.

            Roxane Gay was just as dazzling and funny as she is in print, and in her tweets. The New York Times best-selling author has 238 K Twitter followers and counting. She dispels fears and phobias about using the word, fat. And we're not talking about Fat as in, do these jeans make my butt look fat, but Fat in only the way a woman who has been 300 pounds overweight can reclaim the word. Gay makes it clear to anyone not familiar with her or her work that she is an expert on being fat in the world. As an adult who has lived with fat body since she was a teenage girl who was raped, Gay sets the rules for how she's going to take control of her body. Recently, she told her family her body was off limits for discussion. It's hard to believe that recent interviewers have deigned to give her advice about weight and dieting.

Roxane Gay and Maurice Ruffin
            Maurice Ruffin, on the other hand, conducted a safe and comfortable interview space and presented an intimate conversation even though there were hundreds of people in the room. The interview filled the audience with joy and laughter. Gay noted in response to a question about the source of her humor, "I'm just funny;" she also shared that her parents are hilarious. Of the interview, local writer, Alexandra Reisner, said:

            "She was very funny and unrehearsed. It didn't feel like watching an interview, it felt like talking to a friend. The questions Maurice asked were specific but also open so she could explore and go where she wanted to with the answers. He didn't try too much to guide or dominate the conversation, he just gave her the framework."
Alexandra Reisner and SRO crowd

Maurice Ruffin can be credited with asking Roxane Gay a question she had never been asked before, "What's your favorite and least favorite food?" Dr. Gay answered that she is a super picky eater and would have to say a rib eye steak medium-rare is her favorite, along with any kind of a sandwich. She also took the air out of the room when she announced that she hated avocados. Four hundred people gasped at the same time. "I'm over it," she said as she explained that as a Haitian, she grew up eating plenty of them.
A patient Roxane Gay signs 400 copies of her memoir in New Orleans.

The world is lucky that Roxane Gay has known she wanted to become a writer since she was 4 years old. Her memoir, Hunger, is not an inspirational weight loss story, but a telling of one woman's truth and a narrative that forced her to face her body and to make changes to feel better, for herself, and not for any societal pressure. However, her journey as an acclaimed published author is certainly inspirational. She spoke about her beginnings as a blogger of rejection and writing about how hurtful those rejections were, yet still being relentless about sending work out, sometimes sending a new piece the very next moment to the same editor who rejected her. She advised to wait a bit.

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