I’ve been aware of Jennette McCurdy since her appearance on a Nickelodeon children’s show called iCarly. I was a freshman in college when iCarly first aired, but I have a sister who is 10-years younger than me. Through her, I came to see a few episodes of iCarly and Victorious. For kids’ shows, I thought they were pretty good. I didn’t think much about the child actors starring in them.
Fast forward what, to me, feels like a few years, and I’m starting to get into podcasting. I happened to see that Jennette McCurdy has a chart-topping podcast called Empty Inside. I find stories of child actors who survive the experience with their sanity intact very interesting as it seems like a herculean task. I’m not a big fan of that industry, particularly Nickelodeon and Disney. The first episode of Empty Inside that I ever listened to was called “stage parents” featuring David Archuleta. This was when I first learned about the role Jennette McCurdy’s mother played in her life. (Note: The podcast seems to have fallen off the face of the internet and I haven’t been able to figure out why.)
I was not surprised when I heard that Jennette McCurdy’s upcoming memoir was titled “I’m Glad My Mom Died.” I was a little surprised when I saw the cover. Which is Jennette McCurdy dressed in pink, holding a pink urn, with pink confetti leaking out of it. Her face is an expression of amused indifference.
If you do not know anything about Jennette McCurdy, or if you only know her as Sam Puckett, then this cover may seem shocking, flippant, and disrespectful of the dead. Once you know the story you might come to see this image with all its snark as a perfect symbol of her recovery.
Jennette McCurdy’s mother pushed her into the never-not-abusive profession of child acting. Rather than protecting Jennette, her mother became her primary abuser. It is not until well after her mother has died that McCurdy, through seeking treatment for eating disorders, discovers that her mother was not a hero and was the cause of much of her suffering.
McCurdy eventually leaves acting for good. She moves into writing and directing where she feels more comfortable. If this book is any indication, she is a talented writer. I don’t encounter many celebrity memoirs that I would consider to be page-turners, but honestly, this one is. The chapters are short, sometimes only a page or two. Each chapter is an especially strong memory, or an important moment in McCurdy’s life that contributed to shaping the person she becomes.
A lot of her story is, unfortunately, one that I’ve heard before. If it were just another tale of abused children in the entertainment industry, then I probably would not be writing this post. Two things make this memoir stand out. The first is the focus on recovery and mental health. McCurdy realizes she needs help. She seeks help, she slips and even slides, but then she starts again. Eventually, the treatment starts working. The second thing that stands out about this memoir is McCurdy’s wit, brevity, and honesty.
Much has been made in the media of “The Creator” to whom McCurdy refers several times throughout the book and other Nickelodeon drama that is mentioned. For those who don’t know, Dan Schneider created several children’s shows for Nickelodeon. Shockingly, this man who made extravagant sums of money writing stupid jokes for children to perform was not a person you would ever want to leave your child alone with. Also, shockingly, everyone in town knew about it.
I don’t follow entertainment news particularly closely. I knew that the creators of iCarly were a bit sleazy because I have seen iCarly. McCurdy’s book did not tell me much that I didn’t know already. I think the media response to her book has been lazy at best. It doesn’t seem like one needs to turn over many stones in any of these children’s networks (or networks in general) to start finding all sorts of problematic people. Jennette McCurdy says that the creator is manipulative, verbally abusive, and eventually becomes so toxic that he is removed from set, permanently. That’s it.
If you’re interested in this book primarily for the celebrity gossip, the true crime angle, or some other sort of misery tourism then I think you’ll probably be disappointed. It is a much more personal story about abuse and recovery. I respect the McCurdy all the more for her restraint in those areas.
I will never know what it is like to be a young girl growing up with an abusive, narcissistic mother in Hollywood. I have never struggled with eating disorders. I have, however, struggled with mental health. It is something I mention fairly often on the podcast. I have never discussed my own journey to well-managed mental health publicly. I rarely talk about it privately. It is not easy to go back to those times once you’ve come out on the other side. It certainly isn’t easy to share them in detail with the world. Books with this level of emotional honesty and relatability are important and rare.
I think that this story has the power to affect lives for the better. There are a lot of people out there who are going through a similar struggle to recognize and free themselves from their abusers. They may see themselves in this story. They may seek the help and support they need as a result.
To answer the question posed by my title, yes, you should read I‘m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy.