In a society which places a high value on physical beauty, it must be very difficult to be different, to be disabled and ugly. And not just a few freckles, buck-toothed, crooked nose ‘ugly’, but deformed.
Robert Hoge tells his story of being born Ugly on July 23rd 1972 in Brisbane. A huge tumour caused his face to be misshapen, and both his legs were deformed.
But Robert had a huge advantage: parents of remarkable grace and wisdom, and accepting brothers and sisters who agreed at a family talk that the ugly baby would be brought home.
Robert Hoge tells the story of his many times in hospital and of his many operations to rearrange his face and to amputate his legs and fit with prostheses. These were days of pain and boredom, of hopes raised and hopes dashed. At 14 he called an end to the attempts to ‘improve’ his face.
School brought challenges. While he coped well with the work, coping with the reactions of others was altogether different. In one section, he lists the names he was called, their originality, their laugh factor, his response to them and their power to hurt. He made friends, but could never realise his dream of being part of a sporting team till lawn bowls became a school sport. There an older man took Robert under his care and enabled him to become a more than competent lawn bowler.
Some of the most hurtful reactions to Robert’s physical differences came not from children, but from adults.
This junior version of Robert Hoge’s book was released early in August this year. It is important that students learn to discuss differences and be inclusive in their approach to other students. This book, with careful handling, would be a good aid to such classroom discussions.
I would also have liked students I taught who tried to excuse poor behaviour by explaining they ‘had issues’ to read this to understand what having issues, and being triumphant with humour and grace over them, really was.
If you’re interested in knowing more about Robert Hoge he has a Facebook page. My thanks to Hachette for their review copy.
Please note: the adult version of Robert Hoge’s book, Ugly, My Memoir is also available from Dymocks.