I’m Glad My Mom Died
I’ve been waiting for months to read this memoir about the actress who played Sam Puckett on the popular Nickelodeon show iCarly (and the short-lived spin-off, Sam & Cat). iCarly ran from 2007 – 2012 and my family and I have seen all the episodes. Fans loved Sam’s sassy, strong-willed personality, but off-screen, Jennette fought battles against anorexia and bulimia, brought on by her controlling and abusive mother. As an older teen she used alcohol to escape her mother’s control.
In her memoir, Jennette takes an honest look at her mother, Debra, their intense relationship, and the manipulative pressure Debra put on her to act. The youngest of four children, and the only daughter, Jennette describes a chaotic and dysfunctional family life, homeschooled in a nearly unlivable house because of her mother’s hoarding and their parents’ unstable relationship. Debra, who survived cancer when Jennette was two, used her illness for attention, and every week forced the family to rewatch a home video about her battle. For Jennette, relief came only once a week when they went to their Mormon church.
At age six, Jennette began acting, the career her mother had wanted for herself. Debra controlled her daughter’s every move and taught her how to cut calories to delay puberty, a strategy to prolong her child acting career. Wanting to please her mother, she agreed. “If I start to grow up, Mom might not love me as much,” she writes.
Jennette talks about her experience on iCarly, her close friendship with Miranda Cosgrove (Carly on the show) and of “The Creator” (Dan Schneider), who once forced her to model a skimpy bikini for him. She writes “I feel like The Creator has two distinct sides…He can make you feel like the most important person in the world.” She adds, however, “The other side is mean-spirited, controlling, and terrifying. The Creator can tear you down and humiliate you.”
Oh, what a sad trap. Jennette only wants to please her mother and her mother won’t let her go. Jennette recognizes the trap while Debra is alive, but can’t break away, out of guilt, loyalty and things she doesn’t yet understand. She’s free in a sense when her mother dies, but it takes years of therapy to overcome her eating disorders and learn how to develop normal relationships. As an adult, Jennette must also process a shocking revelation about her father.
I’m Glad My Mom Died is a fast, engrossing read, written in humble humor. It’s not the typical celebrity memoir in the sense that McCurdy focuses on her own battles and does little name dropping. I don’t think she wrote this to impress readers. I think she wrote it to help others better understand abusive relationships and eating disorders. A few sloppy errors took away from the reading experience, but that’s on the editors and publisher. The message rings true, however and provides a good reminder that actors aren’t the people they portray.
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