It’s hard to say if I’m Glad My Mom Died is a Hollywood horror story, a cautionary tale, or both.
It has been on the bestseller list for thirty-seven weeks and right now, it sits at number four in nonfiction reads.
The title is undeniably attention-grabbing, and no doubt many people buy the book because they imagine there is a clever reveal that justifies or at least explains the title, but by the end of the book, assuming you make it that far, you understand that it is a sincere and accurate statement, devoid of irony, and you understand exactly why.
On the NY Times bestseller list, under the title, the description reads, the actress and filmmaker describes her eating disorders and difficult relationship with her mother. This is understatement on steroids. It makes Mommie Dearest, Christina Crawford’s tell-all book about her mother, Joan Crawford, look positively nostalgic. Describing Jennette McCurdy’s relationship with her mother as difficult is beyond euphemistic.
In this memoir, she tells the story of growing up as a child actor and eventually a star of kids shows like iCarly and eventually her own show with Ariana Grande Sam and Cat. This was not a child who was dying to be an actor; this was a child who from a very young age was bullied and manipulated into a showbiz career to make money for her family by a mother who was a narcissist so malignant that she should have been institutionalized.
It's hard to say if this is a Hollywood horror story or a cautionary tale, or both, but when I got to the point where she reaches puberty and her mom coaches her into anorexia so that she can keep playing kid roles, I almost gave up; something about her story, though, even as it is delivered in a tone that is almost completely no affect, held my interest, if for no other reason than curiosity about how she could have possible survived.
In the end, it was worth it. I think as a distorted but at the same time entirely realistic vision of our celebrity-obsessed society, and the price people pay to succeed in it, her story deserves to be told. As James Baldwin once said, strength is what we gain from the madness we survive, and it must have taken a lot of courage for her to face her story and find the strength to tell it. It’s not a long book, and I’m glad I stuck with it. I recommend it. In a weird way, it’s almost inspiring.