‘Bad Feminist’ author speaks to hundreds at lecture


Nate Camm/Iowa State Daily

Author Roxane Gay reads from her new book, “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body,” at her talk on April 5, 2018.

Caitlin Yamada

Roxane Gay began addressing the audience about how there was definitely enough room on the door for Rose and Jack to fit.

At 8 p.m. on Thursday in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union, Gay spoke to Iowa State students about her novel and her personal experiences.

Gay started by quoting from her book “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body.” Gay conceptualized this book in July 2014, a month before the acclaimed “Bad Feminist” came out.

“’Hunger’ rose out of wanting to write about my body,” Gay said. “I’ve always found that the topics that are most intimidating to me end up being the most intellectually satisfying to me.”

This lead to her writing a book about what it means to be fat and changing the public narrative around exercise.

The first chapter she read from was about her hate for exercise and her personal trainer.

“’My disdain for sports, and now, exercise remains pure and constant. It feels like a waste of my time moving around, sweating and hoping that something good will arise from that effort. Certainly, there are moments after a workout when I feel refreshed and powerful, and healthy, but it is very easy to forget those moments when I need to change into workout clothes and go to the gym or go for a walk, or do whatever it takes to move my body,’” Gay quoted.

Gay continued, describing a few items of her workout equipment, including an exercise bike and hand weights, and how using her exercise bike is a good time to catch up on reading.

“’I have worked with personal trainers even though grudgingly, given that I hate being told what to do, and that hate multiples when I’m told what to do by someone who is thin, and impossibly fit, and usually gorgeous, and charging me a significant amount of money an hour….,’” Gay quoted.

Gay also talked about her personal trainer.

As a full Great Hall listened intently, Gay continued to read a chapter about her love for cooking and especially, her love for Ina Garten, the host of “Barefoot Contessa.”

“’I did not think it was possible for me to love cooking, I did not think that such a love was allowed. I did not think I could love food or indulge in the sensual pleasures of eating. It did not occur to me to cook for myself was to care for my health or that I was allowed to care for myself,’” Gay quoted.

Gay spoke about how she became a vegetarian and if she wanted to eat she needed to learn to cook for herself. This lead to her love for “Barefoot Contessa” and Ina Garten. 

The last chapter Gay quoted was about one of the boys who sexually assaulted her when she was young.

In this chapter, she describes her search to find the ringleader of the boys who assaulted her almost 30 years later.

“’He wouldn’t recognize me. I was skinny and much shorter. I was very small and cute and smart, but not so smart. I am not that girl anymore. I could find him and hide in plain sight,’” Gay said.

Once she did find him, she spoke about the questions she had about him such as how he likes his coffee and if he has a family.

“What kind of car does he drive? Is he close to his parents? Do they live in the same house? I have called his office and asked for him. I have done this more than once. Mostly I hang up immediately,” Gay said.

After quoting her book, Gay opened the room up for a Q&A portion. Questions ranged from her reasoning for going to Michigan Tech University, to how she manages living in Lafayette, Indiana and not being accepted.