I succumbed to the hype and read Jennette’s McCurdy’s new memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died, which has been on a juggernaut tear this past month. (It was even sold out on Amazon for a while.) It’s about the child actress’ life growing up with a controlling mother who pushed her into acting, introduced her to the world of eating disorders and generally messed her up through guilt trips and manipulation. I’m Glad My Mom Died is McCurdy’s attempt to understand her mother and move on from the damage she caused.
Why I picked it up: The hype!
McCurdy, best known for playing Sam on Nickelodeon’s iCarly and Sam & Cat, grew up an ordinary kid in California in a middle class Mormon family. Her mother, herself once an aspiring actress, decided early on that McCurdy should pursue her mother’s childhood dream, pushing her to get an agent and attend auditions. Desperate to please her mother, who had survived breast cancer when McCurdy was only two, McCurdy complied not because she shared her mother’s ambition, but because she felt she had no choice. She spent the better part of the next two decades in a career that she didn’t enjoy, pressured by her mother to stay thin, look younger, and build a career in acting. Despite her fame on very popular kids’ shows, McCurdy never enjoyed being an actress. To rebel against her mother’s strictness and domineering eye, she began experimenting with alcohol in her late teens and got into several relationships with inappropriate men. It wasn’t until her mother’s death in her early 20s that McCurdy finally recognized that her mother had been abusive, physically and emotionally, and began to live life on her own terms.
I finished I’m Glad My Mom Died almost two weeks ago and have had trouble reviewing it. This book was just SO HYPED and I thought it was good, but not amazing. Yes, McCurdy’s mom was a nightmare, and yes, she was robbed of her childhood by her mother’s abuse. It was an interesting story, a look behind the curtain of would appear to be a dream life – fame! adoring fans! money! – at the darker reality behind it. I think my issue is that McCurdy is still pretty close to the trauma. The realization that her mother was abusive came about 95% of the way through the book, so the post-clarity portion was extremely short – almost an afterword. I wanted to know more about how McCurdy recovered, the path she took to leave acting and the steps she needed to achieve a healthier life. She hints at all of this, but it’s so brief. Perhaps she wrote this book too soon?
McCurdy is also a pretty unemotional narrator – both in print and on audio. If you ever saw her on TV, she played tough tomboys, a persona not too far removed from her real personality. She is very matter-of-fact, even when talking about romantic relationships or difficult experiences. The emotional remove from which the memoir is told – perhaps another sign that she has not fully processed the trauma of he relationship with her mother – makes for less fulfilling reading.
So this was one just OK for me. I am glad to have read it because it was interesting and because now I don’t have FOMO, but I didn’t like it as much as I expected to, nor as much as others seem to.
I’m Glad My Mom Died was the 44th book of 2022 and satisfies the memoir category of the 2022 EDIWTB Reading Challenge.