Friday, May 08, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Bullets: Growing Up In The Crossfire, by Kat Hibbard

For all that I gripe about it, my job as a field engineer in IT does introduce me to a lot of cool, interesting people. I go to client sites, resolving their PC workstation and server (and sometimes even network!) issues. About three weeks ago, I was doing an upgrade of ten users’ workstations when I met Kat, the author of this book. Transferring data from one computer to another is easy; making sure that each of the specialty programs which were on the old computer work on the new computer is the FUN part, letmetellyou!! So when I try to log her onto this company-wide application, the typical username wouldn’t log me on. Kat suggested a different name, casually adding to me that “I change my name every so often.” I can only hope I had my poker face on; it’s none of my business what a person does. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it mildly curious, like a lot of us might think. But a sense of professionalism compelled me to let it pass.

Work on her computer continued into the lunch hour, and while I’m working, we got to talking. I don’t recall how it came up, but she mentioned a time in her high school career that she had cut class for over thirty days. Astounded, I asked if she’d be comfortable relating the specifics of that to me. I found out that not only was she relatively comfortable sharing the details of that particular adventure, but that she’d written an autobiography detailing even more such colorful chapters in her life. She graciously gave me a copy of her book (and kindly inscribed it for me when I asked), which I set about reading a couple days later when my evening schedule cleared up.

I stayed up to 1:30am reading the whole thing in one sitting; it kept me rapt in attention. Silly me.

The next day, I jokingly complained to her that it was her fault that I’d stayed up late the night before!! She laughed, but thanked me when I complimented her on her book.

And what a story it is. Kat grew up in a home full of all sorts of discord, unhappiness, and strife. Her parents’ marriage was not a happy one, and she and her siblings grew up in the shadow of their unhappiness. To say that Kat has issues with her father is like saying there’s a little bit of water in the ocean. His behavior (in the book, she refers to her parents with a capitalized He and She) was erratic and abusive, fuelled by alcohol and bitterness. The book details all sorts of nightmare episodes where he brought his family down with him into despair and fear.

This turbulent home life led her to make a lot of other personal decisions under duress which she seems to imply she’d do differently had circumstances been different. The book details her truancy, battles with her weight, appearance and self-worth, and even struggles with drugs in order to be accepted socially. The struggles to overcome these trials of growing up are relatable to most of us; the degree of extremity woven in her own set of circumstances will make most of us really glad that in hindsight, maybe our own troubles weren’t so bad after all.

Yet in tale after tale, there isn’t a whole lot of time devoted to self-pity. The facts are presented brutally and unflinchingly raw in a lot of these tales, but there really isn’t a whole lot of hand-wringing or “woe is me” pervading the tone of the narrative. For Kat, these are just the stories as they went down, raw emotions and all. She’s not above casting aspersions on herself; she doesn’t only blame others for her choices. But while her prose does indeed conjure up the emotions of the time, they don’t beg for your pity.

The story does have a happy ending; Kat is a very well-balanced, happy person these days. I told her that after reading her book, I’m surprised that she still walks upright, that she isn’t broken by her past. She laughed, and told me that she has a good support system. She is a mother of two, likes her job, and relates her story to others in order to share with readers that it’s possible to emerge out of horrible circumstances in one piece, with a sense of pride and happiness. Her autobiography is a page-turner, and keeps your attention. I highly recommend it.

If you’d like to buy a copy of this great book, please email Kat here. Or visit her website for more information.


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