Reading to Write

I don’t read as much as I want to lately, partly because of my compulsive anxiety over current political events. But this past weekend, I picked up a book and got totally sucked into it in the way I used to get sucked in to any story that seemed either like my own or totally different from my own. Preferably both at the same time.

The book is Hunger, a memoir by Roxane Gay. I gobbled it for information, for the pleasure of engaging with the author’s mind, for the elegance of the prose, for the plot. Yes, plot. IMHO, memoirs need a plot as much as a novel does. Without a plot, there’s not much reason for the reader to keep reading. As human beings, we’re wired to chase the future, to crave knowledge of what happens next.

Roxane Gay and I don’t seem to have much in common. She’s young, by my 60-year old standards. She’s Haitian-American, and I’m Irish-Jewish-African-Native American. She’s over 6 feet tall, and I’m 5 foot 3 and shrinking. But we both love reading and writing, and we both pay attention, in our own ways, to American culture. Also, she’s a one “N” Roxane, and I’m a one “L” Michele.

I recommend this book to everyone, but especially to writers who want to see how plot works. Not wanting to give away any spoilers here, I’ll just say Roxanne Gay is very, very good at planting hunger in a reader.

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