Over the past ten years, I’ve processed a lot. I’m still processing. And there is more to be done. But I’m very proud of the person I am today. I’m proud to be gay. I’m proud to be a reckless optimist. I’m proud to keep learning and sharing what I’ve learned. I’m proud to be a work in progress.
~ Hannah Hart
This is a (spoiler-free) review of Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded, an incredible book by one of my favourite people in the world, Hannah Hart.
(Disclaimer: I wrote this review between 3 and 4:45 in the morning, after reading and watching old MyHarto videos pretty much all day and night. So it might be rambly.)
I was going to wait to finish the book until today but I couldn’t. I was going wait to write my review until today, but I couldn’t. I had to lie on my bed and process for a while, but then I had to grab my laptop and force myself to stay up just a little longer. I didn’t want these thoughts to drift away.
We, the community surrounding the bright, shiny vitality of a personality that is Hannah Hart as she presents herself to the world, could never have imagined anything close to a backstory like this. Her belated “coming-out” video a couple of years ago was probably the closest she ever came to revealing the slightest crack in her superhero image, and that was barely a pinpoint on the tip of the iceberg of her incredibly difficult life. I don’t want to focus too too much on the actual events of Hannah’s life (Hello, that’s what the book is for. Read it.) but rather on how deeply I admire her and the incredible strength and courage it took to let it all out into daylight after thirty years of being bottled up (at least in the public view).
I would like to take this opportunity, however, to talk about what a freaking brilliant writer Hannah is. Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded is equal parts raw, deep, heavy, heartfelt, soul-achingly real, but also wonderfully charming, light, and funny (there are puns. and emojis. and footnotes!!). And the language and detail and word choice and everything is just so precise and fitting–it’s a memoir that reads like a gut-wrenching urban fantasy novel, like Charles de Lint but more personal, more impactful because it’s real. The way she tells her life story you can see it play out like one of those indy films that leave you with tears choking up your chest and a deep sense of connection with the world. Heck, her old journal entries themselves are poetic and beautiful. Perhaps other people are not as blown away as I was because they have already read My Drunk Kitchen and know her writing style but I haven’t and I just can’t get enough so I probably will read that at some point.
Speaking of My Drunk Kitchen, Hannah of course mentions her channel and her videos, in particular the drunk cooking show that put her in the spotlight in the first place. Although I knew about her soon after I joined the YouTube audience community (very soon after she started, actually), I avoided watching her videos because I didn’t like the idea of someone making light of getting drunk on a regular basis. I think I was watching Grace Helbig first and loved Hannah in her videos, and then I subscribed to Hannah and watched a bunch of her non-Kitchen videos and fell in love with her as a human being, and then sometime in the past year and a half or so I kind of accidentally started watching My Drunk Kitchen and loving it just as much as everything else she does.
Anyway, Hannah talks about specific episodes of My Drunk Kitchen in the first half of Buffering, namely, the very first episode (which has a lovely story behind it and is so true to who Hannah is!), and the special The Burning Man; so I decided to scroll waaaay down through youtube.com/myharto and watch those two episodes to enhance the experience of reading the book. 5 hours later I had watched the first 47 episodes of MyHarto in chronological order and was struggling to decide whether to keep watching or keep reading Buffering. Spoiler alert: I watched 15 more videos, and THEN read the entire rest of Buffering. Hence the being up at 4am still writing this review. Anyway, I’m rambling, which tends to happen when I’m tired. My point is that I am glad I chose to watch all of those videos, because the book was giving me a context, a deeply complex backstory for the Hannah portrayed onscreen all those years ago, and now I am deeply invested in following her video journey all the way through to becoming the Hannah Hart I know and love today. Also, the book explains why Hannah is in a different kitchen nearly every video for the first year or two, which could otherwise be quite puzzling.
Hannah is one of my favourite people in the world. She is one of those strong and humble and honest souls who survive a traumatic past to become a force for good in this world. She is still struggling and learning and processing and growing, and she acknowledges that. I don’t know why I was shocked that some of the most terrifying trials outlined in Buffering Hannah was dealing with within this past year (2016)–perhaps because I have been following her online presence closely in that time and she is oh-so-good at putting on a cheery face and cracking jokes for the camera. It is hard, apparently, to remember that entertainers aren’t just that.
Buffering is another reminder that everyone has their demons, or as I like to put it everyone has their bitterness, and it is often difficult to see from the outside, especially when they are someone you admire. It takes a lot of trust for them to show it to you. And it is amazingly gratifying when they do. Of course as an internet celebrity who is recognized as a positive force in this world, Hannah has a lot of support outside of family and friends, she has this community she can count on to take this gift she has given us and love her 1000 times more for it. But that doesn’t mean that opening her heart and soul to us and the world could have been anything less than terrifying. So thank you, Hannah, for baring your soul and sharing your story with us.
I am a very lucky person who has led a very blessed life. I know nothing really helpful comes of comparing your life to another’s, but reading Hannah’s story, especially with regard to her mom, has made me that much more grateful for what I had and have. I lost my mom but I had her, whole and complete, for long enough to have had a healthy, fulfilling childhood. As much as I am feeling the power of this story, I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for people reading this book who can relate to Hannah’s story directly. I hope that this book serves to educate those who are ignorant and lift up those who are fighting to survive or close to giving up. A reminder to hope, because…
You never know what might be coming in the future.
There is so much music you’ve yet to hear.
Practice reckless optimism.