Wake up, I'm Fat!

Wake up, I'm Fat!

by Camryn Manheim

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In this New York Times-bestselling inspirational memoir, Camryn Manheim, Emmy Award-winning costar of The Practice, chronicles her journey from a self-hating, "overweight" teenager, who desperately wanted to fit in, to a self-loving, fat activist who is proud to be a misfit.  Wake Up, I'm Fat! shares her intelligent, candid,

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In this New York Times-bestselling inspirational memoir, Camryn Manheim, Emmy Award-winning costar of The Practice, chronicles her journey from a self-hating, "overweight" teenager, who desperately wanted to fit in, to a self-loving, fat activist who is proud to be a misfit.  Wake Up, I'm Fat! shares her intelligent, candid, poignant, and often hilarious stories of being fat in a society obsessed with being thin.

Camryn takes us from her days as a motorcycle-riding hippie in Santa Cruz to her enrollment at New York University's prestigious school of drama—where Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner broke the unspoken theater rules of size by casting her in the role of the ingenue—and finally to Hollywood, where she dispelled the fallacy that large women can't be portrayed as sensual, sophisticated, and confident.

Camryn's endearing honesty, sass, and razor-sharp wit will appeal to any reader who has ever felt like an outcast or yearned to make peace with their body.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A liberated, humorous, triumphant story...the writing is as fresh and as friendly as the Emmy winner's speech. Anyone could benefit from her lessons in living large."
Entertainment Weekly

"Manheim's wit runs from impish to slashing; this may be the funniest book about fat acceptance ever written."
Dallas Morning News

"Wake Up, I'm Fat! is the heartfelt and ballsy story of how [Manheim] learned to be comfortable in her own skin...Inspiring without being soap Oprah-ish, Manheim is a natural writer; she has fine powers of description (her chapter on Emmy night is at once dishy and spellbinding)...her dignity and self-reliance are downright refreshing."

"A funny, wickedly candid book."
Good Housekeeping

"An open and unabashed look at being fat that's crammed with funny, poignant, and painful insights."

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It's okay to feel okay about yourself. That's the message from actress Manheim (on TV's The Practice), which comes across more strongly in her first-person tales of being an overweight person than it ever could from a more traditional self-empowerment audio program. "Everyone can find a reason to hate themselves," Manheim opines, and for her, "fat equaled hate." Today, she sounds amazingly self-confident, poised and full of sass: no one better stand in her way. But it wasn't easy getting to this point. She tells of her childhood in Peoria, Ill., her young years as a would-be hippie California motorcycle mama and her struggles as a drama graduate student at NYU. In all these life phases, she met with prejudices against her; it only got worse when she became an actress and found herself constantly stereotyped in the role of the "butt-of-the-joke fat girl." Through doing her own one-woman show at New York's Public Theater, she was able to get beyond that impasse, raise people's consciousness and triumph as advocate and role model. Spoken audio is a similarly perfect soapbox oratory medium for Manheim--and she attacks her reading with a palpable fierceness of purpose. Based on the 1999 Broadway hardcover. (May) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This Emmy Award-winning actress gives a spirited reading of her witty and irreverent autobiography, which also serves as an account of life as an overweight person in a society that abhors obesity. Faced with disapproval about her size from both her family and some extremely insensitive drama professors at the prestigious theater school she attended, Manheim began using illegal drugs to control her weight. Fortunately, she soon realized she could not attain thinness at the expense of her overall health and well-being. In very colorful language, to which some listeners may take offense, the author describes her struggle to achieve success as a large person in an extremely image-conscious profession, explaining that she gradually came to look at her excess weight as a kind of weapon. Sadly, despite all her many triumphs, she openly admits that nothing can protect her all the time from the rejection she often faces as a result of "society's contempt for people like me." For all public libraries and popular culture collections.--Beth Farrell, Portage Cty. Dist. Lib., Garrettsville, OH Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Reprinted Edition
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

by Rosie O'Donnell


There. I said it. Does anyone know what I'm talking about? I tucked once. I'll never forget it. It was 1982, "An Evening at the Improv" hosted by Cicely Tyson, and there, on national television, you could see it. The unmistakable line of the top of my pants as my shirt discreetly disappeared below. I had tucked. Not only had I tucked, I garnished the entire experience with a belt. Shocking, but true.

For most people, tucking is a nonevent. But for those of us who tend to the round, it isn't so simple. To tuck or not to tuck? That is the question. It comes loaded with issues of self-perception and self-acceptance.

Camryn Manheim is a tucker—a proud and consistent tucker. To me, her tucking is emblematic of her journey to be defined and, most important, to define herself on her own terms. In her hands, tucking is a celebration.

Wake Up, I'm Fat! is the work of a loud and independent spirit that ultimately refused to be constrained by shame. The push-pull of weight as an armor or albatross, the internal deals and monologues, the yearning to be on the inside while eternally feeling on the outside are explored with a courageous honesty. We see her struggle to shed the layers of self-loathing and replace them with a sense of her own value. We see her slowly accept herself. The story here is of a heart, mind, and soul that learned they deserved to be held in equal measure to their external package—no matter who or what said otherwise. The achievement of that exquisite balance is exhilarating and inspiring. In short, a great read.

I watched Camryn win her first Emmy Award and, along with millions of women, cheered as she dedicated it to "all the fat girls" out there. When she asked me to write the foreword to this book, there was no way I could refuse. Camryn Manheim is a compassionate maverick. She built the bandwagon and she is pulling it. I, for one, am jumping on.

—Rosie O'Donnell

Author's Note

For most of my life I was waiting for my life to begin. When I was ten, all I wanted was to be thirteen . . . so I could finally be a teenager. When I was thirteen, I was just waiting to be sixteen . . . so I could drive. Then I was waiting to be eighteen . . . so I could vote. Then I had to wait three more years to be twenty-one . . . so I could drink. When I was twenty-one, I was waiting for college to be over, so my life could finally start. And then there was graduate school, and life certainly couldn't start there. And then I was twenty-eight, thinking now my life can finally start. But then another year passed and I was twenty-nine, waiting for a great apartment, then I was thirty and waiting for a great job, and then I was thirty-one and waiting for a great boyfriend so my life could finally start.

Waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting. All my life I was waiting for my life to begin, as if my life were somehow way up ahead of me, and one day I would just arrive there. I've wanted to write a book for ten years now, but I was waiting. Waiting to be thin, so I could write about what it was like to be fat and how I emerged the righteous champion: the conqueror of my fat!

But a few years ago I finally realized something. My life was not way up ahead of me. I was standing smack dab in the middle of it. In fact, I was standing on the corner of "Life" and "You better get going, Camryn," and the way I saw it, I had two choices: I could either cross that street or just keep waiting for a few more years of green lights to go by.

I no longer wanted to be a bystander, a spectator watching my life unfold. I wanted to be the writer, director, and star of my story. And so, in August 1993, I began work on my one-woman show, Wake Up, I'm Fat! Despite that chronic, nagging feeling that I had nothing particularly special to offer, I realized that there was one area in which I was an expert. I knew every nook and cranny of what it was like to grow up fat in America. And guess what, it's no fucking picnic. To make matters worse, I was cursed with a singular passion for acting. Not astronomy. Not veterinary medicine. Not haberdashery. No, I was in love with acting, a profession that is all too often based on how you look. It didn't matter what an agent or a casting director actually said when they rejected me, all I heard was "You're too fat."

This book, however, is not the whiny lamentation of a girl who was never asked to dance (well, maybe occasionally whiny). It is a celebration of ass-kicking. It is my enthusiastic rejection of the beauty myth and a call to arms in the fight for self-acceptance. This is my journey, from victim to victor.

The following anecdotes are true. I think. Over the years, after-dinner stories tend to bend and twist and become more colorful and dazzling than they originally may have been. A flourish here, a double entendre there, a wee embellishment for emphasis. Sometimes the truth is drab, redundant, and ludicrous and needs a little decoration or refinement. This has been my greatest challenge: to be precise without boring you to tears, to be honest without making enemies, and to be candid without getting sued. Wish me luck.

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Meet the Author

Camryn Manheim is an actor, activist, writer, and playwright who rides a Honda CB650, and whose current role as the smart, passionate, combative attorney Ellenor Frutt on ABC's The Practice earned her an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award for best supporting actress in a drama. Her film credits include Happiness, Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion, The Road to Wellville, Eraser, Mercury Rising and Wide Awake.  She holds a master's degree in acting from NYU and is proud to have performed in most of New York's off-Broadway theaters, winning an Obie Award and an Encore Award for her performance in Craig Lucas's Missing Persons. In 1994 she brought her acclaimed one-woman show, Wake Up, I'm Fat!, to the Joseph Papp Public Theater.  She divides her time between New York and Los Angeles, but is registered to vote in New York.

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