So in my pre-review of this book, where I lamented about not being able to find a copy anywhere because of all the HYPE (seriously, I could not find a copy of this anywhere and the library had, like, a five-hundred year wait-- thank GOD for my sister sending me a copy as payment for watching her kitten), I said that the people giving this author shit about her choice of title were dickheads. Some people got mad at me about that, but I stand by what I said. Even more so after reading this memoir. I am seriously side-eyeing the people defending the mother, actually, because based on the accounts in this memoir, she was verbally, emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive. Not only that, but she coached her daughter into an eating disorder at age eleven and then managed her to ensure that she continued to starve herself. That's not to mention the stage-parenting, the freak-outs (especially while driving), and the fact that she wiped Jennette when she went to the bathroom well into, like, her preteens (imagine not even trusting your eleven-year-old daughter to wipe her own ass) and showered her into her late teens (sometimes with her older brother and also while giving her breast and vaginal exams, ostensibly to search for cancer, I guess).
What the FUCK.
Here's a hard truth. Some people are shitty people. Some of those shitty people are shitty parents. Being a parent does not give you a free-pass from all wrongs. Especially if you're just doing the whole parenting thing for a little human-sized accessory that you can live all of your failed dreams through. By the end of this book, I was kind of glad Jennette's mother died, too. After living under that kind of suffocating parenting, with gaslighting and serious emotional trauma, not to mention abuse, I would be fucking done. I don't blame Jennette for her feelings. And I love my mother. I'm lucky enough to have a pretty good relationship with her. And a few years ago, my mother got breast cancer, just like the author's mom, and I was so devastated that I felt like I was working in a total fog. I stepped back from social media and it was all I could do to focus on my day job because I was so upset. But I know that other people's experiences aren't like that, and we don't get to dictate how other people mourn (or choose not to). My mother ended up okay, but I would have been really sad if the worst happened, and that's because she was a good mom and she still works hard at being a good person. People who don't try to be good people are owed nothing. Why enshrine the dead if they leave behind a legacy of trash? The title is shocking but only because we tend to airbrush the pasts of the departed.
I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED rejects this premise. In this memoir, Jennette McCurdy lays out her upbringing in painfully explicit detail, starting from her mother's hoarding and growing up in poverty in a house that sounded like it should have been condemned, to the way her mother forced her into acting and she ended up being the golden goose that kept her family afloat after years of living hand to mouth. She talks about the way her mother emotionally manipulated her, and her guilt. She talks about how she started to get body dysmorphia because she felt like the only way she could continue to be successful was to look like a child forever, and when she expressed this fear to her mom, her mom taught her how to starve herself, starting an eating disorder that would basically rule her emotional breaks and her relationship with food for over a decade. She talks about her hatred of acting, what it was like working under the man she calls "The Creator" at Nickelodeon (we know who), her friendship with Miranda, and her jealousy and resentment of Ariana. And then she writes about her utterly conflicting feelings when her mother began to die of another bout of cancer, still manipulating her emotions.
This book stressed me out so much. I think it would be very triggering for people with eating disorders and people with abusive parents, as it is SO descriptive when it comes to these passages. It's also a brand new look into celebrity, because most celebrity memoirs are written by people who are still in the business, but this is kind of a fuck-you memoir written by someone who doesn't care if their bridges are burned, so she really unhauls all the dirt in a way that someone who probably wanted to keep working in this field wouldn't. It's really well-written but the writing can, at times, feel a bit amateurish. McCurdy has a lot of raw talent but the people hyping her up as brilliant are exaggerating a little.
ALSO, who the fuck is calling this book a "hilarious" memoir? Are these the same people who were talking about how "funny" CRYING IN H MART was? Is this where we open up the floor to a conversation about how women's emotional pain and fraught relationships are often mined for comedic value? Why do people find it so amusing when women hate their mothers? My review is already getting longer than I intended it to, but this is definitely a trend I've noticed lately where I'll pick up a memoir that's supposed to be funny and instead it's just an emotionally wrenching book about a woman dealing with her trauma. Ha-ha, I guess. Fuck that.
Do read this book, if you are in a healthy mental space, but gird yourself against the hype. It is not Jesus's Second Coming. It is just a very brave story about a woman trying to come clean with herself and the past.