[#RapplerReads] In Jennette McCurdy’s memoir, I understood why she was glad her mom died

Julian Cirineo

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[#RapplerReads] In Jennette McCurdy’s memoir, I understood why she was glad her mom died
Trigger warning: This writeup contains details about Jennette McCurdy’s experiences of physical abuse, anorexia, bulimia, and other mental health issues

Editor’s note: #RapplerReads is a project by the BrandRap team. We earn a commission every time you shop through the affiliate links below.

We often associate actors and the characters they play so closely with each other, and I always thought that Jennette McCurdy was genuinely similar to iCarly’s Sam Puckett, the character she is most known for on television.

iCarly was one of my favorite shows growing up. Aside from having a big crush on Miranda Cosgrove who played Carly, I found Jennette’s depiction of Sam hilarious. As it turns out, Sam and Jennette couldn’t be more different from each other.

Sam was a tough gal with a monstrous appetite. Jennette, however, had obsessive-compulsive disorder, anorexia that turned into bulimia, and a mother who exhibited narcissistic behavior and also encouraged Jennette’s eating disorder.

A bulimic actress who played a character whose catchphrase was “I love fried chicken” for years? YIKES.

Jennette McCurdy’s memoir “I’m Glad My Mom Died” was eye-opening. Many would assume she was just another child actress whose success didn’t blossom beyond her “big break” in iCarly, but the truth wasn’t what everyone expected. She was suffering from so many mental health issues that seemingly began with her abusive mother, perpetuated by an industry that upholds unrealistic and confusing beauty standards, and encouraged by a network that didn’t care enough.

In her book, Jennette bares it all. The title alone is provocative enough, and people are eating it up because everyone loves Hollywood drama and the dirty little secrets that happen behind the scenes. Mothers, after all, are revered figures in society.

When mothers die, people write inspiring eulogies about how strong mothers are – always suffering and sacrificing yet filled with nothing but love. And although Jennette initially had similar emotions when her mother passed away, she would later on realize how tired she was of romanticizing her mother’s memory and defending her dysfunctional family.

“I’m Glad My Mom Died” begins with a tragic anecdote from 2013 that does not fall short of absurdity from an outsider’s perspective but completely made sense in a younger Jennette’s mind. Together with her siblings, they each took turns sharing good news to their comatose mother hoping their voices would wake her up.

When it was Jennette’s turn to speak, she knew what their mom wanted to hear the most. She held the key to her mother’s locked consciousness: “Mommy. I am… so skinny right now. I’m finally down to eighty-nine pounds,” she wrote in her memoir.

Anyone outside the McCurdy family would know this wasn’t the kind of good news most would be expecting to hear, and yet no one batted an eye. Jennette was a celebrity; to her household, she was meant to be thin and attractive. And she and her mother took this too seriously, constantly tracking each other’s food intake and weight.

But her mother did not wake up.

This was the start of a new crisis for Jennette. For the past 21 years, her life’s purpose had been to make her mother happy. She even felt like it was her responsibility to keep her mother alive. Unknown to her at the time, this was also the start of her liberation from the physical and emotional abuse, and the start of her living her own life.

This anecdote also sets up what the book is about perfectly – a loving daughter who was blindly devoted to an abusive mother and what it took for her to start a journey to recovery and live a more meaningful life.

Written in the present tense, we’re taken on a journey as if we’re witnessing firsthand what life was like for Jennette McCurdy to grow up in such a chaotic household.

We read the words of a six-year-old Jennette who was gaslit into thinking that she loved acting; the joys of an 11-year-old Jennette when she realized calorie restriction was effective and she was quite good at it. We feel the anxiety and fears of a pre-teen Jennette whose mother didn’t allow her to shower on her own and would inspect her private parts for signs of cancer (Jennette’s first time to shower on her own was when she was 18 when her mother was too sick to go with her on tour).

We witness a Jennette in her early 20s spiraling out of control as she finally realizes her dead mother was abusive towards her. We get a glimpse of who Jennette is now years after therapy and living life on her own terms and finally loving who she is.

It’s as if we’re reading through a personal journal that Jennette has held on to for years, even though she wasn’t allowed to have a journal on her own and was forced to have a shared diary with her mother growing up.

She sometimes still fantasizes about what it would be like if her mother apologized and fixed their relationship, but overall she seems to be in a happier and calmer state of mind.

To be clear, Jennette loved her mother. She didn’t want her mother to die. Jennette soaked in every moment her mother would smile out of genuine happiness because she knew cancer could take her mother any moment. But her mother lived vicariously through her, depended too much on her bookings to pay for family expenses, and wanted to stay in control over everything she did.

The book also contained more details about the rivalries she experienced, the jealousy she formed against other actors, a verbally abusive producer who sexualized his kids’ shows she hid behind the name “The Creator,” and the great and helpful friendships she established (I’m so relieved to hear that she and Miranda Cosgrove are also real life friends). It also contained helpful insight on what she has learned from going through therapy.

She also details why she left an acting career behind, finding solace in writing and filmmaking, and how she continues to recover from eating disorders.

“I’m Glad My Mom Died” is a great read. Despite its heavy and sometimes intense content, Jennette was able to inject a lot of wit and humor, and her writing really grabs your focus, making it hard to let go of the book.

Even before its publication and official release, the former Nickelodeon star’s memoir had been on the watchlist of many distributors and booksellers. It’s only been a month since its launch, and the book is already on top of the New York Times bestsellers list, and copies nowadays are hard to come by. Simon & Schuster, the publishing company behind it, is currently awaiting second printing. – Rappler.com

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Julian Cirineo

Julian is a senior content producer for Rappler's BrandRap. Before joining the team, he worked for an NGO focused on plastic pollution, and was also a managing editor for a magazine. He started his career as a producer and writer for a TV news network.