Having heard Frank Bruni give a thoughtful interview on the podcast Gay Sunday Brunch some weeks ago, I finally got my hands on his memoir, Born Round. Bruni, a New York Times journalist, chronicles his lifelong struggles with food and weight, which began when he was a “baby bulimic” who vomited in anger when refused a fourth helping of food and continued through his posting as a foreign correspondent in Rome. Over many months in Italy, he internalized that country’s slow-food ethic of smaller portions and better food, lost the habit of mindless munching, and gradually got his health in hand. Eventually he became so confident in his ability to sustain a healthy relationship with food and exercise that he became the Times‘ restaurant critic, eating magnificent meals for a living without returning to his former obesity. It’s a remarkable story and well worth reading.
I mention it here because Bruni is gay, and because that fact played no more remarkable a role in his memoir–and no less–than other salient facts about him, such as his Italian heritage and his gift for swimming. He takes all these facts about himself as givens, and writes about each so gracefully that it gives a glimpse into the future we’re working for–a future in which being gay is value-neutral and thus treated as such in a memoir that focuses on another topic. I’d be surprised (and pleased) if Bruni had never faced homophobia or shame about his sexuality, but in his book, he truly just happens to be gay. I wonder if his handling of this topic will in itself work a form of persuasion on homophobic readers who are drawn into the book and find themselves identifying with him.