“Mom’s watching me and I’m watching her and that’s how it always is. We’re always connected. Intertwined. One,” McCurdy recalls. When I read that line, I recall something too. Standing in my mother’s foyer, after finally calling her evil and abusive. Her in my face, screaming, “If I’m evil, so are you b[****}. Everything you are, I made you.” It has taken eight years of therapy to try to begin to convince myself that my mother and I are not intertwined; we are not one. Even miles and years apart, sometimes I can still feel her — what she’s thinking, what she’s doing.
One of the most powerful — but under-discussed, especially amidst social media reactions to a small portion of the book discussing Jennette McCurdy’s working relationship with pop star Ariana Grande — aspects of the book is her relationship with writing. She details an incident when she was eleven and wrote a screenplay, realising that she unequivocally preferred writing to acting.
“Through writing, I feel power for maybe the first time in my life,” McCurdy writes. “I don’t have to say somebody else’s word. I can write my own. I can be myself for once.” But it’s another dream dashed by her mother, who manipulates her into sticking with acting and giving up writing, saying, “Writers dress frumpy and get fat.”
But now, years after her mother’s death and years after McCurdy’s exit from acting, writing has been a core part of discovering her identity and forging a new path that’s her own. She’s written and directed three short films: Strong Independent Woman, about a mother that helps her daughter recover from an eating disorder; Kenny, about a thirty-something-year-old man dedicating his life to caring for his mother; and The McCurdys, based on McCurdy’s own dysfunctional upbringing. McCurdy’s voice is out there, not the words of Nickelodeon writing rooms or the voice of her mother, but a voice that is authentically hers, honing with each new project.
I’m Glad My Mom Died started off as a one-woman show of the same name, written and performed by McCurdy. And now, it’s a bestselling book — sold out in stores and online, with people finding themselves 7th, 10th in line at their local libraries. McCurdy told Good Morning America that writing the book helped her heal and reframe her relationship with her mother. And, she stresses, the book wouldn’t exist if her mother was still alive because her “identity would have still been dictated by her.”
When I became estranged from my mother, it took years for me to regain any semblance of identity. In many ways, I’ve had to build myself from scratch. My mother isn’t dead, but the same result has been achieved. I escaped, and something and someone had to die for me to live. For McCurdy, her mother died. For me, it was just I who died, an old version of myself.
I’m Glad My Mom Died is a revelatory memoir by a dynamic young artist who is using her pain and experiences to forge a new identity. It’s also a book that speaks to countless victims of child abuse, including myself, giving us language to describe our experiences and further validation of those complicated feelings.