“I’m Glad My Mom Died” Tells Us That Death Does Not Guarantee Absolution

“I’m Glad My Mom Died” Tells Us That Death Does Not Guarantee Absolution

Ex-Nickelodeon teen star Jennette McCurdy shocks with her memoir



Trigger warning: This review about Jennette McCurdy’s “I’m Glad My Mom Died” contains mentions of eating disorders and abuse.



Perhaps almost every 90s and 2000s kid who grew up during the peak of television shows wanted to be a Nickelodeon star at some point in life. Especially when All That, Victorious and iCarly were the titles that defined our youth, we wanted to crack jokes on air and partake in the wildest shenanigans (my pick was throwing sushi towards the ceiling, Drake & Josh style). We dreamt of posing on the orange carpet, receiving an orange blimp award and (un)fortunately getting slimed while attending the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards.


But for Jennette McCurdy, living the child star dream was hell. The former child-to-teen actress tells all in her The New York Times Bestseller memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died. Both brutally honest and hilariously callous, McCurdy’s commentary makes for a page-turning read without sugarcoating the tragedies she faced. While the chapters shatter the illusion of our childhoods, it feels like a necessary punch to the gut to face reality.


The irreverent title and equally provocative cover of Jennette holding a pink urn with silver streamers pouring outward make it look like she has a vendetta. But after reading the book, you’ll understand why she refuses to be defined by her previous career and, by extension, her late mother, Debra McCurdy. It’s not a petty revenge stunt for a childhood lost to showbiz. Instead, I’m Glad My Mom Died tears down the curtain that hides the dark side of the child star life.



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A post shared by Jennette McCurdy (@jennettemccurdy)


RELATED: Miranda Cosgrove Reacts To Fellow ‘iCarly’ Alum Jenette McCurdy’s Claims


Before: “iCarly,” “Sam & Cat” and The Creator

The first half of I’m Glad My Mom Died retells Jennette’s journey towards Nickelodeon stardom. From humbly landing cameos and commercials to finally getting her big break in iCarly. Her beloved work as the rambunctious Sam Puckett landed her a spin-off with Ariana Grande’s Cat Valentine from Victorious called Sam & Cat.


Beneath all the outrageous practical jokes, weird shenanigans and the TV series that defined our youths was an exploitative industry. A culture of competition surrounded these young women, driving them further apart instead of together. Heading the production was a creep she called the “The Creator” (whose identity we can guess), who has a history of getting too close to his young talents. He serves a barely-of-age Jennette alcohol, gives her unsolicited massages and puts his young actors in uncomfortable situations on and off camera.


And while The Creator finally got some karma (still less than what he’s due), deeper scars still haunted her. Because more than her difficult time in Nickelodeon, I’m Glad My Mom Died highlights Jennette’s complicated relationship with her mother. It would be a crime to reduce this memoir to just her experiences under the TV network—we also need to hear the story of how and why she got there in the first place.



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A post shared by Sam & Cat (@samandcatshow)


RELATED: What My First Encounter with Loss Taught Me About Relationships


After: Relationships, familial piety and recovery

The second half of I’m Glad My Mom Died deals with the aftermath of Debra’s passing. Because aside from the traumatizing experiences she faced while working in television, Jennette faced mental and physical abuse from her supposed support system. Jennette’s mother encouraged her to restrict her appetite to remain small and petite, starting at age 11. Her mother is the same person who drove (and kept) her in a career she never wanted and manipulated her into becoming an actress. Now, faced with her passing, how does she navigate mourning and the loss of a person she once loved and put on a pedestal? And is it possible to reconcile her love towards Debra while acknowledging the years of abuse at her mother's hands?


The answer is yes, but it’s difficult, especially when her mother didn’t leave any apologies or explanations. “Her death left me with more questions than answers, more pain than healing, and many layers of grief—the initial grief from her passing, then the grief of accepting her abuse and exploitation of me, and finally, the grief that surfaces now when I miss her and start to cry,” writes Jennette, “—because I do still miss her and start to cry.”


Like any child who spent a lot of time with a parent, Jennette knows she loves her mother and misses her presence. But despite all that, she knows that Debra wouldn’t budge had she gotten more time on earth. She explains, “Mom made it very clear she had no interest in changing. If she were still alive, she’d still be trying her best to manipulate me into being who she wants me to be.” And imagining what her life would be like if her mother apologized doesn’t offer any solace. Jennette expresses, “But then I realize I’m just romanticizing the dead in the same way I wish everyone else wouldn’t.”



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A post shared by Jennette McCurdy (@jennettemccurdy)


RELATED: To-Read List: Books on Grief


The biggest takeaway from I’m Glad My Mom Died is that death does not guarantee absolution. It does not erase sins, nor does it heal the scars inflicted. It can even seem like an easy way out. But while some losses may have us feeling robbed of closure, we can still find healing when we put our feelings and memories to rest—in all sense of the expression. It can be a long and winding journey filled with contradictions, but it doesn't mean we can't move forward and start anew.



Art Alexandra Lara


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