Memoir about being a child actor with an abusive mother
Content warning: child abuse, emotional abuse, eating disorders, sexual harassment
I 100% chose this book for the provocative title. I was couple of years too old to be the target audience for this author’s breakout role in the Nickelodeon TV series “iCarly“, so I wasn’t familiar with her work or fame but when I saw this book come up I thought it would be an interesting one to listen to while out jogging.
“I’m Glad My Mom Died” written and narrated by Jennette McCurdy is a memoir about her life as a child actor. The book opens with Jennette visiting her mother who is unconscious and dying of cancer. In an attempt to get her mother to wake up, Jennette tries to tell her mother something that she will be really proud of: that she is very thin. The story then goes back to Jennette’s early life and her mother’s desire that Jennette become famous. Initially, Jennette will do anything to make her mother, who is a cancer survivor, happy. However, as Jennette grows older, she soon realises that she actually doesn’t enjoy acting. The pressure caused by the auditions and pursuit of perfection starts to take a toll on her, but the successes seem to make her mother happy and start to bring in some income for the family. When Jennette lands a role on the TV series iCarly, her fame becomes a rollercoaster that she cannot get off. However, it is a rollercoaster that takes her away from her mother’s control and slowly, painfully and with many bumps along the way towards independence.
This was a captivating, heart-breaking story that was beautifully and expertly narrated by McCurdy herself. I think given the public fascination with celebrities and TV stars, it is easy to think that become famous must be a wonderful and easy life. Some of the pressure has been highlighted in reality TV shows like “Dance Moms“, but these highly scripted shows often focus more on the adults and the competition. It was truly illuminating hearing from someone who was for all intents and purposes forced into the life of a TV star, and truly heartbreaking hearing the impact on her through vulnerability to controlling behaviour, condoned and encouraged eating disorders and poor mental health. I think, however, the most devastating part of this book was how little the rest of her family and the television industry intervened in what everyone could see as abuse from her mother. There were also some really horrifying stories about behaviour from men in positions of power on the shows Jennette was appearing on. McCurdy has a warm, slightly sardonic style and a clarity of voice that other ghostwritten memoirs don’t seem to always have.
A challenging and honest memoir that reveals the darker sides of the dream being a child actor in Hollywood.