Unbearable Lightness Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Unbearable Lightness

Portia de Rossi describes her experiences dealing with both anorexia and bulimia in the modeling business. As the memoir begins, Portia de Rossi describes her morning routine when she was at her lowest weight. Every morning she would awake, begin her exercises, then eat an extremely small breakfast.
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De Rossi then describes her emergence into the modeling industry as just a preteen in Australia. Even as a young girl, modeling agencies took one look at her pudgy complexion and full figure, and immediately turned her away, telling her that she needed to lose an obscene amount of weight before she would be hired anywhere. Not only was this information news to de Rossi, it shaped her view of her body, and the importance of her weight for the rest of her modeling career.
Eventually, de Rossi did, indeed, get a few gigs to kick off her career, and moved to The States where she took a role in a popular T.V. show, Ally McBeal.
She recalls fearing costume fittings because her weight frequently fluctuated, and she felt that the employees, as well as coworkers would judge her. De Rossi also feared her coworkers finding out that she is gay, and having the information leaked into the media, or even be fired.
As her anxiety worsened, so did her binge eating. To prevent gaining more weight, de Rossi began purging after each binge. Through vivid descriptions of the binging process, and the immediate emotional instability she felt afterwards, de Rossi describes her experiences with her eating disorder.
Eventually, purging wasn't enough, so the actress turned to starving herself. She would eat a tiny serving of yogurt in the morning, then exercise as much as she could during the day, just to eat another incredibly small dinner. De Rossi remembers that she even went so far as to turn the air conditioning up as high as it would go, and walk around in her underwear, to force her body to burn more calories to prevent getting hypothermia.
De Rossi also shares several black and white photos taken by paparazzi of her at her lowest weight. As she reflects back on these photos and experiences, although she may appear happy, she admits that she was definitely severely depressed.
Though everything changed when she met and fell in love with Ellen de Generes.
De Rossi was extremely close to death before she met Ellen, yet after she fell in love, she realized that she could not continue living the way she was, and decided to seek help.
Now, as a popular model, and gay rights speaker, she lives a healthy and happy life with her wife, inspiring many who are facing similar obstacles.
Best part of story, including ending: I liked this memoir because it was honest, blunt, and real, yet surprisingly humorous and enlightening.

Best scene in story: Early in the book, when Portia de Rossi is describing her experience with finding modeling gigs as a young 12 year old girl, she articulately illustrates the mannerisms and dialogue that the modeling agency representatives displayed. The way she conveyed how she was treated as an overweight child broke my heart, and was very realistic and vivid.

Opinion about the main character: I liked Portia de Rossi's optimism and positivity about her life. Not once did she mention that she regrets any of her decisions or experiences because she knows that it led her to where she is today.

The review of this Book prepared by Keirstan Schiedeck a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

Chapter Analysis of Unbearable Lightness

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Plot & Themes

Phys disability/mental struggle?    -   Yes Struggle with    -   physical disability/sickness Taboo Sex Story?    -   Yes Kind of sex:    -   lesbianism Period of greatest activity?    -   1950+

Subject of Biography

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   actor/actress/producer Ethnicity    -   White Nationality    -   American Unusual characteristics:    -   Mentally Ill


United States    -   Yes The US:    -   California Century:    -   1980's-Present

Writing Style

Book makes you feel?    -   depressed If this is a kid's book:    -   Age 16-Adult Pictures/Illustrations?    -   More 6-10 B&W How much dialogue in bio?    -   significantly more descript than dialog How much of bio focuses on most famous period of life?    -   51%-75% of book

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