Having been one of those strange children that didn’t grow up with iCarly – I was more of a Victorious fan – I was surprised at my attraction to a book written by an actress best known for wielding a sock full of butter. Perhaps it was the title that drew me in. Well, of course it was. But why did I care so much? Even I wasn’t prepared for the raw emotional intensity this book would deliver.
Released in August 2022, I’m Glad My Mom Died is a candid memoir delving into actress Jennette McCurdy’s childhood as a former child actor, her struggles with eating disorders, addiction, and most prominently, a brutal reflection of her co-dependent relationship with her mother, Debra. We follow Jennette from her young days as a (somewhat) aspiring actress up until after her mother’s death from cancer. Through her visceral writing, we experience the innocent naïveté that would permeate the first pages of her life. She reluctantly agrees to an acting career, launched at age 6, in the hopes of winning her mother’s approval. Whilst many would view a career as a child actor as a dream come true, for young Jennette it was anything but. At the expense of her freedom and happiness, she believes that this sacrifice will grant her unconditional love from her mother. Obviously, it doesn’t. But it’s heartbreaking to see how long it takes to realise this herself.
She confesses that she had been emotionally and sexually abused well into her teenage years, being given routine breast exams and not even being allowed to wash her own hair. Her mother does nothing to stop the development of her eating disorder. In fact, she encourages unhealthy dietary restrictions and enables her subsequent abuse from “The Creator” at Nickelodeon, as she so affectionately names him. We all know she’s talking about Dan Schneider, but by maintaining his anonymity, we are reminded of the ongoing reality for victims of child sexual abuse. And is it really Nickelodeon without the threat of hush money? Although, frankly, I’m more surprised she was allowed to write about that at all.
As I read her memoir, I couldn’t help but wonder when McCurdy’s iCarly co-star, Miranda Cosgrove, would make an appearance. While her appearance is brief, McCurdy fondly recounts their relationship, offering a glimpse of hope amidst the painful experiences she shares. She also touches on her jealousy towards Ariana Grande, who co-starred with her on the iCarly spin-off show, Sam and Cat. McCurdy’s sincerity and vulnerability throughout the memoir is welcomed, offering a rare insight into the intrusive thoughts that many of us have but rarely share.
Despite the harsh title, McCurdy questions why we tend to romanticise the dead. McCurdy asks her mother this at her grave but ultimately admits to wanting to glorify her legacy like everybody else. But when the dead are not here to defend themselves, we are left only with the past. ‘Maybe she would have apologised’, she wonders, but she knows this just won’t do. You can love someone deeply and still acknowledge the happiness you’ve felt since they’ve been gone.
In a sea of celebrity memoirs, I’m Glad My Mom Died stands out as one of the most poignant releases of 2022. McCurdy’s refreshing honesty provides readers with a taste of what it’s like to read a book actually written by the author themselves. Though she was discouraged from writing as a girl, this memoir is a testament to what could have been for Jennette McCurdy. She’s glad her mom died. And I understand why.
I’m Glad My Mom Died (Jennette McCurdy)