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Fat, Stupid, Ugly: One Woman's Courage to Survive

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Overview

In the spirit of A Child Called "It" comes an amazing story of resilience from a woman who triumphed over child abuse, cancer, and alcoholism to founder of A Place Called Home.

"I began life, it would seem, as some kind of Grimm's fairy tale creature, large and oafish, undesirable, grossly imperfect. Neatly penned in my baby book were the words, 'Debbie was a fat, unattractive baby.' Fat and ugly aside, my life was fairly normal for a couple of years. It would be a while before the abuse began. Before the smoking...

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Fat, Stupid, Ugly: One Woman's Courage to Survive

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Overview

In the spirit of A Child Called "It" comes an amazing story of resilience from a woman who triumphed over child abuse, cancer, and alcoholism to founder of A Place Called Home.

"I began life, it would seem, as some kind of Grimm's fairy tale creature, large and oafish, undesirable, grossly imperfect. Neatly penned in my baby book were the words, 'Debbie was a fat, unattractive baby.' Fat and ugly aside, my life was fairly normal for a couple of years. It would be a while before the abuse began. Before the smoking and pills, the rage and rebellion, the alcoholism and cancer, the broken marriages.

In those first uncomplicated years I could have set out on any of a dozen different paths toward an orderly life . . . it was not to be. . . . But this is not a story of defeat."

This is a book about surviving. It's about hope. It's about how each of us-ordinary, imperfect, damaged-can dream and heal. This book weaves the humorous, often outrageous, always courageous tapestry of Debrah Constance's life. Voted Woman of the Year by the State of California Legislature for founding A Place Called Home, (APCH) an organization providing services to at-risk inner-city kids in South Los Angeles, she proves that anyone can rise above life's obstacles and make a better life for themselves-and others.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The most compelling part of this book relates how Constance, who was named California's Woman of the Year in 1994, founded A Place Called Home- a youth center in South-Central Los Angeles that has become a refuge for inner-city gang members and gives them a chance to turn their lives around. APCH delivers many needed services, largely thanks to the author's hard work and commitment. Those who come through the doors can sign up for art, dance and music classes, homework help, sports and access to computers. But the bulk of this memoir is devoted to the author's struggle to deal with her father's sexual abuse; her mother's characterization of her as a fat, unattractive baby; three failed marriages; other troubled relationships; alcoholism, agoraphobia, smoking, a bout with cancer; and a traffic accident that nearly killed her. The author became sober through AA, forged a successful reunion with her alienated son and is currently in a loving relationship with a female partner. Although Constance has clearly overcome horrendous problems to get where she is today and should be applauded for her work with troubled teens, the detailed, artless and somewhat simplistic account of each obstacle is more numbing than inspiring. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780757302251
  • Publisher: Health Communications, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/1/2004
  • Pages: 300
  • Sales rank: 291,422
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.48 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Debrah Constance founded A Place Called Home in 1993. APCH now offers its youth members many programs including an all-day school in collaboration with the Los Angeles Unified School District; computer lab; music; art; dance; tutoring and mentoring. In September of 1996, with a growth in membership to 400, APCH moved to its present location-a 10,000-square-foot facility that serves over 4,000 children.

J.I. Kleinberg is a freelance writer whose clients include individuals and corporations in the travel, healthcare, and design/print industries as well as a wide range of other businesses.

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Read an Excerpt

Beginning

Mother labored for twelve hours, the doctor gave a yank with the forceps and I came squalling into the world on January 18, 1947. Cleaned up and ready for a little maternal affection, I was given the cold shoulder. "Take that baby away!" Mother insisted, much to the alarm and disapproval of the hospital attendants. Whether exhausted, afraid or just dismayed by my appearance, she wasn't ready to hold me.

A baby nurse was waiting for us at home in Manhattan, so if Mother didn't want to touch me for a while, at least I wouldn't suffer from lack of attention. Eventually Nan accommodated herself to motherhood, taking copious notes of my visitors, gifts and modest accomplishments. "At 15 months Deb is such a happy and outgoing baby that everyone comments on it. She loves people & gives her toys to everyone. She doesn't have any temper at all with her playmates - just loves them and laughs at everything they do." "Deb is very lovable - kisses on the least provocation - hugs her mommy all day - laughs over nothing at all. Is altogether the most wonderful baby in the world, & I was never so contented & happy."

In spite of the label - "fat, unattractive" - that I seemed to be born with and that Mother had inscribed in my baby book, things were good for a while. My parents, Nan and Arnold, took me for walks in Central Park, tended to my needs and shuffled me from place to place as they changed addresses. Nan was petite and beautiful, a Broadway actress until she became pregnant with me. Arnold was handsome and intense, an artist and an advertising executive on Madison Avenue. A stunning couple.

If their first effort at making a picture-perfect baby had yielded disappointing results, they had much better luck the second time. Wendy, born when I was two and a half, was beautiful, a cherub, perfect in every way. Within months, her ideal beauty was confirmed: Wendy was chosen and photographed as a Gerber baby.

Now the toddler and big sister, I lost my position as baby. But more than that, my parents, and especially my father, had a basis for comparison. From birth, it seemed, my tiny precocious sister excelled at everything. She had beauty, talent and brains. What I did, she did better, sooner and more gracefully; what I couldn't do, she mastered without effort. All of my parents' pride and attention swirled around her as Wendy became their "real" daughter, and I became the "other," swept along in the wake of her accomplishments. This was a game that I could never win. I had been born Fat and Ugly and no quantity of kisses or laughter could erase that unfortunate, and lingering, fate.

Once, when I was around seven, Wendy and I went into the city with our father to spend the day. We got to Arnold's office, and he left me sitting in a large coat closet, directing me to stay there, while he took Wendy around to meet his colleagues. Little Wendy, five years old, stood on a desk and recited the entire Gettysburg Address. He was so proud of her and so embarrassed by me, an attitude that I believed was fully justified because I was Fat, Ugly and, now by comparison with my brilliant baby sister, Stupid.

Like everyone else, I adored Wendy, doted on her and blamed myself for my own shortcomings. Our young lives were filled with music and dancing lessons, visits with loving grandparents and a continual parade of pets. Wendy was a cello prodigy, playing a miniature instrument that had belonged to a prince, but even private lessons with esteemed tutors couldn't turn me into a violin player. I was terrible and retreated to the attic for my hours of practice. Eventually I switched to the piano and was able to play decently.

We led a normal, even a privileged, life.

Except for the things that my father was doing to me.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Foreword xiii
Author's Note xv
Introduction: Coming Out of the Closet xvii
Beginning 1
Arnold 5
Happy as a Fiddle 11
Where There's Smoke 17
School Daze 19
Work, Part One 27
Husband Number One 31
California 37
Husband Number Two 47
The Wild Years 59
Cancer 63
Husband Number Three 69
Work, Part Two 75
Drunk 83
Real Life 91
Ugly 99
Work, Part Three 101
Finding A Place Called Home 109
South Central 119
Bad Love 123
A Place Called Home 131
A Gang of My Own 147
Diana 157
Crash 161
Smart as a Bell 171
Gideon 181
God 185
Cat Tilt, Dog Tilt 189
Finding Frida 193
Fat 195
Wife 201
Sacred Music 211
Awards Earned by Debrah Constance and A Place Called Home 215
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

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(3)

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3 Star

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2 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2005

    Dull

    The writer did'nt talk about her childhood enough.The books revoles around APH.Though the concept of a place for youth is great,a whole book about it was'nt.Plus it would have been nice if they included photos.This book was alittle dull for my taste.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 26, 2011

    Boring...

    I feel as if this author took the potential of making a good book from her past of abuse from her father to instead advertise her "a place called home" child help center. I mean come on the book is 170 and she uses the last 70 pages to talk about how well this center is doing. I was expecting a book about the abuse of a child instead I got a book on an author trying to prove she turned her life around. I regret spending $10 on this book. It's so boring and her love life is too repetitive on bad relationship after another is a trend.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2005

    Inspirational

    It a great book. Fat,Stupid,Ugly is a book that make you want to read it all day, page by page you want to know what is the next thing thats going to happen to Debrah Constance and how she overcomes cancer, mental , and physical abuse. An turns out to help so many people and still know how to love human beings know matter what they do.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2013

    This book is sad and i did not like it at all

    Do not read this book it talks about this gril that gets made fun of alto so what i am tring to say is do NOT read this book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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