By Katie Sanchez, Arts & Entertainment Editor
If you’re anything like me — a member of Generation Z with an insatiable appetite for celebrity gossip — you probably picked up former actress Jennette McCurdy’s memoir I’m Glad My Mom Died expecting a salacious tell-all full of drama and scandal that still manages to deliver on iCarly nostalgia. You might have expected plenty of sensational stories made lighthearted by the face of the rough-and-tumble yet endearing, food-loving tomboy Sam Puckett. If so, you, like me, would have been wrong.
McCurdy’s book, released this month to critical acclaim, doesn’t fall into either of two more conventional celebrity memoir categories. It’s not a desperate attempt by a one-hit wonder to claw their way back to relevance by marinating in the past, nor is it a self-indulgent fluff piece by a beloved figure guaranteed by their ghost writer to top bestseller lists. I’m Glad My Mom Died is an entirely raw, unapologetic treatise by McCurdy that sets aflame an entire lifetime of caring about what other people think of her.
Through a series of bite-size glimpses into her life as a child persuaded by her mother to try auditioning for commercials to her present-day adulthood as a retired actor, McCurdy lays bare the oft-gossiped about (but rarely analyzed) rise and fall of child stardom.
Having spent her entire life conforming to fit the “ideal Jennette” of her mother, Hollywood and the international public, McCurdy unabashedly vows to shed her skin and be done with pleasing others.
McCurdy is beautifully raw, exposing ugly truths about abuse, eating disorders and addiction in a way that is vivid and palpable, not for shock value but with no holds barred. Her fraught journey towards recovery makes her a downright unlikable protagonist at times, but that’s OK — she doesn’t need nor want you to like her.
She is allowed to celebrate the death of her mother. She is allowed to be ungrateful for her acting career. She is allowed to be indelicately crude, brutally honest and exquisitely real.
As someone who grew up watching the shows that catapulted McCurdy to fame, it is difficult at times to rationalize the trauma she experienced as a child actor with the love I have for the media that raised me.
It’s impossible to watch iCarly now without thinking about how just behind the façade of the brusque and gluttonous Sam lies a young girl who hated her body and was being manipulated by nearly every adult in her life.
This book has forced me to recontextualize the stories of other child stars, especially those who have gone through ugly, public breakdowns.
Who failed to protect them as they sacrificed their childhoods to make studios billions? How can we better support those stars in their transitions to adulthood in order to prevent this endemic trauma?
These are all questions that McCurdy raises and that we, as a culture obsessed with media, should certainly grapple with; still, she doesn’t pretend to know the answers or expect them from anyone else. She doesn’t tell her story as someone who has unlocked the five easy steps to recovery and happiness, but as someone who is only part of the way through a lifetime journey of self-rediscovery.
“I’m processing not only the grief of my mom’s death, but the grief of a childhood, adolescence and young adulthood that I feel I have never truly been able to live for myself,” McCurdy writes in the closing chapters of her memoir. “It’s difficult, but it’s the kind of difficult I have pride in.”
I’m Glad My Mom Died is certainly not meant to be an inspirational self-help book, but McCurdy’s journey to unabashedly reclaim her public image and allow herself to be marvelously selfish is truly beautiful.
It’s not a light read, but a necessary one for anyone who needs to flip the bird to society’s expectations every now and again.