Content warning: This story includes domestic abuse, sexual assault, eating disorders and abusive relationships.
In this memoir published August 9, 2022, Jennette McCurdy unveils the reality of what it is like to be a child actress and the strained relationship with her mother that sparked it all. She is famously known for her role on “iCarly” as Samantha Puckett, which aired on Nickelodeon from 2007 to 2012.
The eye-catching title, “I’m Glad My Mom Died,” gives a snippet of the role that McCurdy’s mother had in her life. But it also causes the reader to question what happened for that to even be the title, ultimately hooking in the reader to discover more.
McCurdy starts her memoir by saying, “IT’S STRANGE HOW WE ALWAYS GIVE BIG NEWS TO LOVED ONES IN A COMA” (p. 1). By starting this way she can encapsulate a human tendency and how when she had to give “big news” she told her mom, “Mommy. I am … so skinny right now. I’m finally down to eighty-nine pounds.” This big news serves as a starting point to explain the major role her mom had in her life regarding her eating disorders and how it stemmed from her mother’s need for control over Jennette’s appearance.
Throughout the novel, McCurdy describes the way her mom Debra tried to keep her from growing up and manipulated her into becoming a star which she never was. Although her mother’s method of doing this was abusive and traumatizing, this method included telling Jennette to start calorie restricting and neglecting her needs and desires. McCurdy comments on this abusive relationship by saying, “My mother emotionally, physically, and mentally abused me in ways that will forever impact me. She gave me breast and vaginal exams until I was seventeen years old. These “exams” made my body stiff with discomfort. I felt violated, yet I had no voice, no ability to express that” (p. 295). The morbid reality of Jennette’s childhood is expressed from when she was just six years old to well into her late teens. The purpose of this memoir is to showcase the struggles that McCurdy faced and to show the world that just because an actress can become a star it doesn’t mean they feel like one.
The world of stardom presented McCurdy with a plethora of stresses that led her to feel alienated from herself and unable to say no to her mother who had controlled her for the majority of her life. McCurdy says, “I was conditioned to believe any boundary I wanted was a betrayal of her, so I stayed silent. Cooperative” (p. 200). McCurdy beautifully intertwines the painful truth of her life and the irony behind her mother’s attempts to live vicariously through her. She accomplished this by separating the novel into two sections, “before” and “after” her mom’s death. The “before” showcases her naïveté and the brutal way her mother abused her. And the “after” exemplifies the effects that her mother’s death had, which led her to feel lost without the constant fear that she was trapped in.
The memoir ends with Jennette coming to the resolution that she is indeed glad her mom died, bringing us full circle to the title. But what is truly astounding is the way that the novel is written. It leaves the reader craving more and wondering how it will end. It goes into great detail about the experiences that Jennette endured while creating a sense of humor and sarcasm around the topic. This ability to keep it from getting too dark allows the story to flow and is easier to read. It also masks the true trauma of the memoir to showcase how McCurdy coped with her own life. The book feels like it is speaking directly to the reader, which creates a strong connection between the reader and McCurdy.
Overall the book is a true example of a powerful memoir that shows you can get better even through trauma.
“Mom didn’t get better. But I will” (p. 300).