Nov 27

Unruly Embodiment: Analyzing Reviewers’ Reactions to Roxane Gay’s Memoir, Hunger: A Memoir of (My)Body

Monday, November 27, 2023

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Categories: Student presentation

Ashley Isabell Miller

Doctoral Candidate of Disability Studies

1:00 – 2:00 pm, CST

Monday, November 27, 2023

Zoom:, Meeting ID 827 205 4124


This dissertation explores the contention within recent disability studies scholarship that the identification of and with disability itself matters less than the political and cultural critique of systems of oppression that impact people with non-normative bodies and minds. I analyze popular press reviews of Roxane Gay’s (2017) memoir Hunger: A Memoir of My(Body) to explore how reviewers engage with questions of embodiment. In the memoir, Roxane Gay, a fat, Black woman, explores what it’s like to navigate the world with a non-normative or “unruly” body, although she does not identify as disabled. My analysis of reviews is informed by the question: How are reviewers of Gay’s memoir drawing attention to themes that disability studies scholars have considered central to disability oppression – disability identity, access, and medicalization? In answering this question, I demonstrate how reviewers recognize many of these themes within Gay’s work that expose the intersections of ableism, fatphobia, racism, and sexism. I contend that because of the barriers to “fitting” both physically and socially into society that both groups experience, disability and fatness are socially constructed and, thus, inherently political identity categories. I ultimately argue that folks who embody non-normative or “unruly” bodies experience ableism, regardless of the claiming of a disability identity as exemplified through Gay’s complexly embodied experiences that she shares in her memoir.

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Aly Patsavas