“Ugly” Author Robert Hoge Visits Bryan Middle and Speaks on Overcoming Adversity

Posted on 09/12/2016
“Ugly” Author Robert Hoge Visits Bryan Middle and Speaks on Overcoming Adversity

Author Robert Hoge turned to the crowded library at Bryan Middle on Wednesday, Sept. 7, with his book in his hands. 300 sixth-graders looked at him with big eyes, eager to learn more about the man standing in front of them.

“Who here thinks I look normal,” he asked. A few hands went up. “Who here thinks I look beautiful?” Many kids raise their arms. “And who here thinks I look ugly?” The room was quiet, and then, slowly, one hand appears. A wave of whispers fills the room. Robert Hoge smiles. “Today, I’m going to tell you a little bit about why I look the way I do.”

When Robert Hoge was born in 1972 in Brisbane, Australia, he didn’t look like his five older siblings. He was born with deformed legs, and a tumor as big as a fist covered his face. Before his mother saw her newborn baby, Hoge said she must have known something was wrong. “She didn’t ask, ‘Is it a boy or a girl,’ instead she said, ‘Is my baby okay’.” When his mother finally locked eyes with her new son, she was shocked. It took her a week to decide that she would take him home, and not leave him in the hospital.

What followed was a childhood full of challenges. “My parents were worried that once I started school, looking like this, I wouldn’t have a good experience,” Hoge told the students at Bryan.

He was four years old when he had his first surgery, a 13-hour process that would move his eyes from the sides of his face to the front and give him a nose made out of a couple of his toes. By the time he was 14, he had undergone 24 operations.

Despite his struggles, Hoge said that he still had a fairly normal childhood, only that he had “a funny face and funny legs.” When he spent more time at the hospital was when he realized that people are different, and there is nothing wrong with that. “I saw the kids at the hospital who all struggled from different things than other children at school,” Hoge said. We all have differences about us, I just have a lot of different differences.”

He grew up to become a successful journalist and author of his memoir “Ugly,” which he presented to the kids at Bryan Middle last week as part of his North American book tour. His message is simple: “We shouldn’t define ourselves and each other by only one aspect,” he said. “There is so much more. Even though the way I look is a big part of who I am, I also love writing, and taking photos.”

Bryan Principal Dr. Sue Chester said it is important for kids to hear someone who is very successful share their story of how they overcame adversity. “This age is such an impressionable age, and every single day, we try to educate our kids on what is bullying and how to stay strong,” Chester said. “The kids were excited for Robert to be here. Hearing his story allows them to relate and recognize that kind of struggle. It helps them realize that nothing is impossible, and the sky is the limit.”

View the photo gallery for more pictures of the event.

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