Authors Note: This story covers traumatic experiences that I mention.
I wasn’t well versed in TV shows growing up, spending most of my childhood ignorant of shows outside of Digimon, Pokemon, and Teen Titans. However, there was one show that stood out to me in my teenage years, a show about video bloggers, iCarly. Fast forward years later and my favorite character from that show, Sam Puckett played by my teenage crush Jennette McCurdy publishes a book recapping her childhood, or rather the lack thereof as she burst into stardom living a life she never wanted.
And it broke my heart.
I’m Glad My Mom Died is likely one of the most popular books coming out of 2022. As of writing, it has been in the top 5 of the NYT best sellers list for 13 weeks, and it has brought into question the ethics of child acting, and how abuse can be camouflaged in love especially when it is coming from a person who is supposed to protect you. There is a lot that can be said about this book, including how well it’s written, Jennette’s candid but humorous verbiage as she looks within herself, and the struggles she has experienced. But there are a few things that really stood out to me, solidifying this book as one of my favorite (but one of the most tragic) Memoirs of all time.
The super simple synopsis of this book is this. Jennette grew up in a household that was dysfunctional but compounded with deep LDS beliefs. Her mother who had dead dreams of being an actress pushed her daughter to fulfill those dreams, leading to an environment where Jennette was the sole income of a household she quickly became to hate. It becomes apparent that her mother, while a hoarder, is also a narcissist that plays the victim card, bringing up often her cancer, and weaponizing it to get what she wants out of people throughout the book.
Doing her best to make her mom happy Jennette goes through the motions of a world she hates, developing an eating condition as a teenager encouraged by her mother that would haunt her into her 20s and generally not having any control over her life. All of this becomes even more muddled as she starts to work on iCarly, experiencing abuses within the industry, and being stuck between her family and the job that was chosen for her.
There is honestly a ton that can be said about this book, but I don’t feel the need to sit here and praise a story that has already had its graces sung to the masses. You can literally throw a dart at any point on the book internet and find thoughts on it, overwhelmingly of them being positive.
So instead I want to take a moment to touch on a part of this book that Jennette McCurdy really hammers home. A disorder I never really understood, knew no one personally that suffered from it. The real eye-opener for me in this overall fantastic book was her development and detail of her eating disorder. Even more horrifying she developed at the coercion of her mother.
Worrying about her weight as she grew out of childhood into her teenage years Jennette’s mother teaches her daughter of the neat world of calorie counting. In theory this method of dieting though generally unhealthy is manageable if done properly, sadly, most of the time it ends up with the victim just not eating. Naturally, as this progresses the guilt of eating is paramount and as in Jennette’s case finding relief from that guilt by purging whatever she ate, evolving into an extreme case of bulimia.
It is at this point in the book that really made me take pause and take in the urges Jennette goes through as she struggles with eating, pairing it with alcoholism and just the sheer need for dependency. The book quickly takes a turn as she finds herself floating from relationship to relationship not understanding herself or the world she found herself in as the day-to-day hazes by in a drunken stooper. Time and time again the only relief she finds from the looming anxiety is when she binge eats, purging afterward.
I think what really caught me off guard is just how often, and how long this occurred. Kabi Nagata brilliantly talks about eating disorders in her work, My Alcoholic Escape from Reality but it was nowhere near in detail. While Kabi’s eating disorder also paired with drinking she shifted, sometimes not eating, never stopping eating, someplace in between. Jennette on the other hand is the same type of affliction throughout the book, a development of urgent and often terrifying desire where the world on makes sense once she purges. It becomes apparent to those close to her that this has become a massive problem and a detriment to her health but she has little to no control over it.
This is at the apex of the book while she is in therapy, inviting her therapist to a reward show. Now in context, we have to remember that at this point in her career she loathes everything about the industry, and, quite logically, believes if she brings her new therapist to something she despises it may help her get through it. In an amazing amount of detail, Jennette breaks down the event, and her feelings before shoving sliders in her mouth in hopes of getting to the bathroom before anyone notices, specifically her therapist.
Naturally, she gets caught, her therapist noting that she is happy to see Jennette eating and hopes that she will keep the food down. This leads to one of the fiercest hatreds one can muster for another. Jennette knows that she is doing her job, and knows that this is what is best for her but at that moment she hated her therapist with every fiber of her being and that, really hit home for me.
It was at that juncture I realized just how spiraling an eating disorder can be, how it can upend lives, and how it can just as equally as alcohol or any drug control every aspect of a human being. Jennette McCurdy was abused by her mother into an eating disorder at a young age and it completely changed every facet of her life leading up to even today. Now, fortunately, as the book comes to a close it discusses her getting proper help, stepping away from acting, and finally living the life she wants to live, but much like Kabi’s work, it does so in a way that these disorders never go away. Always being an aspect of one’s life, in the shadows, waiting.
I’m Glad My Mom Died is a brilliant book and should be read by people who grew up watching iCarly or those who just want to better understand addiction or the seedy (very shitty) side of Hollywood. It is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year and depending on how I feel about The Passenger may be my best book of 2022.
Thanks for the read!