The title quote is actually from the book I’m reading next – The Book of Goose, by Yiyun Li – but it felt really apt for a title for the review of this book so I went with it. I think, at this point, most of us know what this book is about – Jeanette McCurdy, former star of shows like iCarly and Sam and Cat on Nickelodeon, wrote a memoir about her life with her abusive mother. The tone of the book is sort of akin to sitting down with your witty friend who is worldly enough that you’ve long suspected they have a bit of a PAST – they’ve finally decided to open up and tell you some of their stories, and you’re all ears, ready to learn more. It’s not a poignant examination of a life, but it’s a very straightforward discussion of how a child’s life morphed into a nightmare at the hands of an abusive parent, and how that child rose above it (from the metaphorical and actual ashes).
I am too old to be a part of iCarly generation – by the time the show aired, I was already past graduate school, far more interested in whatever debauchery my mid to late twenties consisted of than anything Nickelodeon had to offer. I was drawn to this book because I enjoy a good celebrity memoir, especially one about fraught family relationships. McCurdy was a child being raised in a house full of humans (her grandparents, parents, and three brothers all lived together in Garden (Garbage) Grove in CA. Her family kept her house stuffed full of all sorts of things, to the point that their bedrooms were hardly functional -they slept on trifold mats in the living room. McCurdy was raised in the Mormon church, something her mother clung to when she went through her first bought of breast cancer when McCurdy was quite young – but eventually, the family abandons. Jeanette wants more than anything to appeal to her mother, who seems perpetually dissatisfied with life. She wants to please her mother so much that when her mother suggests exploring a career in acting, Jeanette works past her painful shyness to embrace the brutal auditioning process.
McCurdy explores how she rose to a regular role in a popular children’s television program – and provides small glimpses into what that life looked like. Her overall take on childhood stardom is that it’s quite bad, which makes a lot of sense. It’s a very adult game, and Jeannette was made to feel responsible for her family’s finances at an age when most of us can’t be trusted to regularly brush our teeth without reminders. While her mother sheltered her, she also introduced Jeannette to the most destructive forces in her life, including the eating disorder she nurtured from the tender age of 11, through her young adulthood.
What was most striking about the abuse that Jeannette suffered was the way in which her mother quite likely saw it all as expressions of love – conveniently forgetting the vitriol she would throw at her when she couldn’t manipulate Jeannette into behaving the way that she wanted her to. I suppose that’s not all that striking, really, it’s the way abuse operates, but that sort of betrayal – and the fact that a child just cannot know what a deep betrayal it is until well after the fact – is heartbreaking to read about. Content warnings about abuse, disordered eating, and alcohol abuse abound.
CBR15 Passport – new to me author