Review: An XL Life

“I had loved myself at 500 pounds. I loved myself now, even with my loose skin.” page 203

An XL Life: Staying Big at Half the Size by Big Boy (Kurt Alexander).
Cash Money Content, 2011.
Autobiography/memoir, 237 pages.
Not leveled.

The autobiography of Los Angeles radio personality Big Boy, once known for his size as much as the music he played.

An XL Life resized

This book opened with Alexander talking about the father he never knew and how he didn’t feel that contributed to his weight at all.  It’s a marked contrast to the last biography of a black man I read, Un-Ashamed.

On the other hand, Alexander was greatly impacted by constantly moving around as a child.  His stories about homelessness and frequent moves reminded me more of Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness, although he wasn’t moving from relative to relative.  His mother must have been truly remarkable, because his six siblings stayed with the family through various moves and hardships, even after they were adults.

His mom is also the main reason he never officially joined a gang despite being affiliated.  He also sold drugs and participated in various other illegal activities, but never got in too deep because he didn’t want his family to know.

Music and food are two reoccurring threads in Alexander’s life.  His family is also a strong influence, and he had several strong mentors and friends who supported him.  I’m not into rap and music in general just isn’t my thing, so I’m not the target audience.  My interest was more in his battle with food.

Some points he doesn’t seem to have done much research on, like when he says there isn’t much out there for black people trying to eat healthy.  Angela Shelf Medearis is now a cookbook author and promoter of healthy eating, and there’s other authors and groups.

The chapters in this book are very short and easy to read.  Alexander keeps each chapter to a theme or specific time in his life, so it’s perfect for readers who need to stop and start or who prefer to read a short portion at a time.

Halfway through the book, Alexander has a type of gastric bypass surgery called duodenal switch.  He ended up being the ‘one in a thousand’ who experience nutrient deficiency and lose weight too quickly, unable to stop.  He went from medical crisis to medical crisis.

My physical reactions to this were strong.  In the first part, Alexander described food so longingly I kept feeling hungry!  For the second part, I was constantly cringing and curling up into a ball.  He doesn’t recommend or condemn the controversial duodenal switch.  Alexander makes it quite clear that, at 500+ pounds and growing, he was going to die without the surgery.

Alexander does swear, and his references aren’t always inclusive.  In chapter five he tells about a running joke he had over accents.  It comes off as iffy.  He does better with Latino references.  However, I also felt that he was writing how he talks.  The swearing didn’t feel gratuitous.

Alexander has amazing body positivity at all stages of weight.  While he was confident, popular, and didn’t experience many size-related disadvantages as a child, the constant references to “being fat” and some of the other events he witnessed could be disturbing to some readers.  Due to strong swears, gangs, drugs, guns, and various criminal employment, I wouldn’t recommend this to young people.

I only recognized half the celebrity names and expected more about weight, but this was readable and moved quickly.  If you want to learn more about hip-hop, rap, radio personalities, or duodenal switch gastric bypass, then you might enjoy this book.

Author: colorfulbookreviews

I work in a library by day and parent the rest of the time. I am passionate about good books representing the full spectrum of human diversity for every age group and reading level. This blog is my attempt to help parents, educators, and librarians find the best children's books authored by or featuring characters of color.

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