on March 8th 2016
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: Texas, New York, California, Berlin
“Comedian Zach Anner opens his frank and devilishly funny book, If at Birth You Don’t Succeed, with an admission: he botched his own birth. Two months early, underweight and under-prepared for life, he entered the world with cerebral palsy and an uncertain future. So how did this hairless mole-rat of a boy blossom into a viral internet sensation who’s hosted two travel shows, impressed Oprah, driven the Mars Rover, and inspired a John Mayer song? (It wasn’t “Your Body is a Wonderland.”)”
I have a confession. I hate YouTube. If I am forced to watch a video because of a deep interest in the subject, it better be captioned so I don’t have to turn the sound on my iPad on. It is no wonder that I’d never heard of Zach Anner before reading this book. It is also a testament to my love for his story that I’ve watched several of his YouTube videos and shared them with others.
Zach has cerebral palsy which causes him to have limited fine motor skills and poor balance. He describes his legs as mostly decoration. He has a lazy eye and his eyes don’t track which makes it difficult for him to read. He also has a razor-sharp mind, a wild sense of humor, and the compulsive need to express himself through pop culture references. This leads to a laugh out loud funny memoir about the unexpected turns his life has taken.
The book is not organized chronologically. I appreciated that. How many memoirs have you read where you know something interesting happens in the author’s twenties but first you have to suffer through the minutia of their childhood for many, many chapters? Here we start on a high note. He entered an online competition to win a spot on a reality show on OWN, Oprah’s network. The prize? His own TV show on the network.
His video went viral when it was discovered on Reddit and adopted as the favorite by 4chan purely because of the spelling of his name. He went on to win his own travel show on OWN. From there you can only go downhill through cancellation and strangers asking, “Didn’t you used to be….?” in stores. He describes how he moved to YouTube to make the realistic traveling with disabilities show that he wanted to make.
Along the way we learn about his attempts to find love, his love for music, his time working at Epcot policing other people’s disabilities, and his failures in adaptive P.E. class in 4th grade. Each story is hysterical but ends with a life lesson that manages to be uplifting without being sappy.
This is best experienced by listening to the audiobook. Zach narrates it himself. I can’t imagine this book without his upbeat and charming narration or without listening to himself crack himself up retelling the adventures that he’s had.
One of the first videos Zach talks about making is this one where his friends torture him at a trampoline park. I had to look it up.
It is even funnier when you hear the background story of what went into making it.
I will be recommending this book to EVERYONE! Do yourself a favor and get the audiobook and step into Zach’s world.