Rebuilding a Life Online - Review of "Buffering" by Hanna Hart
I’ve owned Hannah Hart’s book Buffering for several months, but never really felt a strong motivation to read it until recently. In case you don’t know, Hannah Hart is one of the most popular YouTube creators active today. Initially going viral for her antic cooking show “My Drunk Kitchen” back in 2011, Hart has expanded her reach to film, TV, live performance, and podcasts, and recently announced a content partnership with Ellen Degeneres. As an openly out performer, she has also become an icon to the millennial LGBTQ+ community, all with a sunny demeanor and brilliant smile.
Okay, first the bad: Her book does follow the (somewhat annoying) format of memoir/advice books by “successful” young people, which seem to often combine stories of their childhood and boilerplate “advice” on being true to yourself or being a good friend or something equally uninteresting to any over the age of 35.
However, the core of Hart’s book is really about her early family and upbringing, which is incredibly compelling and anything but pollyanna-ish. Hart’s mother began suffering from schizophrenia before she was born but her delusions and inability to function within society was a key element of Hannah’s childhood. Largely neglected, occasionally malnourished, Hart spent most of her earliest years living in squalor with her increasingly unstable mother with visits from her father whose devotion to the Jehovah’s Witnesses largely isolated him from Hart and her sisters. Hart’s personal journey chronicles eventually turning her mother into Social Services, her emancipation at age 16, and working to support her sisters and parents while attending college and her initial ventures into entertainment.
What makes Buffering truly compelling is learning how Hart’s abysmal childhood and personal challenges (she suffers from her own mental health issues) could easily have crushed her willingness to strive and succeed. Additionally, she seems to be able to relate her experiences of her past without casting blame at her parents and other adults that truly failed her and her siblings.
The book ends with Hart’s recounting the harrowing story of how she tried to get guardianship of her mother. Over several months, she was able to assemble photos, police reports and doctor recommendations to show that her mother wasn’t fit to care for herself. However, she was only able to get a judge’s approval because a secretary recognized her from YouTube and was able to help her with a bureaucratic issue that would have otherwise sucked her efforts. This is one of the few parts of the book where Hart shows her anger and frustration at the social and legal system in our country which has completely broken down and fails the most vulnerable among us.
Hannah Hart’s book initially seemed to be an easy read about a young YouTuber, but really is a story of mental illness and the profound effects it can have on families and futures. It becomes apparent in the course of her book that Hannah Hart is far more than a talented creator. She is a survivor that has reason every reason to be bitter of her past, but has made the choice to break that cycle and spread a message of healing and hope instead.