a work in progress

“if at birth you don’t succeed”

book-club

It’s weird, but my reading rate has significantly slowed since the puppy arrived one month ago.  She’s just so….what’s the word…time-consuming. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m just using her as an excuse to explain why I haven’t finished a book in weeks, yet I’ve somehow managed to re-watch nearly every 30 Rock episode. It’s so strange how that happens.

When I discovered Zach Anner’s If at Birth You Don’t Succeed I felt compelled to immediately begin reading, even though I was enjoying (and nearly finished) another book. I saw it advertised in a list full of titles I already knew and loved, so I figured the odds were high that I would enjoy Anner’s book, as well. I sent a sample to my Kindle and was hooked.

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Zach Anner first became “internet famous” when he auditioned for Your OWN Show, a 2011 reality series on Oprah’s network which featured eight contestants vying for the chance to star in their own reality show. Anyone interested was asked to post an audition tape on YouTube, and  Anner’s went viral. He went on to win (or rather tie for the win when, in typical Oprah fashion, the last two contestants standing were equally deserving and amazing so they both won the grand prize).

His reality travel show Rollin’ with Zach lasted only one season, but Anner has maintained a solid fan base using his charisma, likability, and infectious positivity in regularly uploaded videos on his YouTube channel. He also caught the attention of Reddit and Rainn Wilson’s SoulPancake movement which resulted in a second travel show and a web series titled “Have a Little Faith,” respectively.

While his works are all fairly different there is a common thread binding each series; Anner has cerebral palsy, which he deems “the sexiest of all the palsies.” Neither his book nor his videos harp on this topic, but he also doesn’t downplay the role that CP plays in his day-to-day life. In If at Birth You Don’t Succeed Anner writes with a certain honesty about his body, struggles, and shortcomings that make me comfortable with this foreign topic. His frankness and transparency put you at ease, no matter how outlandish the circumstances he’s describing may seem…or at least that was my reaction. He toes the line between being completely overbearing and failing to address what it means to have something like CP. Sure, Anner makes one too many penis jokes to deserve “hero” status, but he has a lot to say and makes it easy to listen.

While there is quite a bit in this book that would be particularly meaningful to a person with a chronic condition, the message that resonated most with me could pertain to anyone. Anner felt as if the unwritten rules of the world did not apply to him; he couldn’t find a place in which he fit. Instead of changing who he was or forcing a fit, he decided to “change the game entirely.” Sure, he struggles to do things that other people may find easy, but he has carved his own path to success, making me feel increasingly inspired and full of lame excuses with each chapter.

And I have to hand it to him with that title. In less than six months I’ll be thirty and my blog will need a new domain. Zach, if you’re reading this I’d appreciate any and all suggestions!

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