Hunger: An Unnatural History

Book imageSharman Apt Russell’s Hunger: An Unnatural History is an exhaustive study of what hunger represents. The book includes anecdote, history, anatomy, and iconography related to feast, famine, and fasting. The author’s sources cover a wide range from medical texts, religious parables, journal entries, and historical records to Kafka and Gandhi.

Especially moving are Russell’s personal struggles with food. As she attempts to find the meaning behind food as an American with the privileges and contradictions of knowing hunger from feeding her own children juxtaposed with commercials of hungry children around the world, she voices a compassion that “hunger cannot be ignored.” Most devastating for me is the section about cannibalism in China - yi zi er shi (swap child, make food) - where in the 1930s corpses of starved girls were boiled into soup.

Hunger is recommended for people who need to read stories about eating, starving, and everything in-between from a poetic voice who references multiple disciplines throughout history and around the world.