By: Brock Hickman

Published on August 9, 2022, I’m Glad My Mom Died is a memoir written by former actress Jenette McCurdy. McCurdy is best known for the role of Sam Puckett on the Nickelodeon television shows iCarly and Sam & Cat. In the memoir, she reveals her struggles as a former child actor and the abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother. This abuse caused her to develop mental health issues: an eating disorder, alcoholism, unhealthy relationships, and an identity crisis later in life.

The first thing you notice about the book is the shocking title. Once you’ve read the entire memoir, you’ll realize it’s not said flippantly but meant with a darkly humorous twist: McCurdy means it sincerely. The cover reflects the book’s dark humour and the memoir’s core theme of finding inspiration and celebration through tragedy.

In a recent interview with Good Morning America, McCurdy admitted that the more uncomfortable something was for her to put on the page, the more important it was to write. She found the honesty liberating and it led her to a life of fulfilment and authenticity. She also said you have to face the parts of yourself you feel the most shame about. As such, facing her struggles has been incredibly healing and transformative. She hopes the book helps readers consider doing the same for themselves. 

It’s clear she immersed herself in this book – this is evident when she admitted in the same interview that she took over a year and a half to write it with 12 different drafts.

A large portion of the memoir is given to McCurdy’s relationship with her mother and the abuse she suffered throughout her life until her mother passed away due to cancer. Afterwards, McCurdy is left wondering what her identity is. She had pretended to be other people her entire life – through her childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. 

The book explores the question of who you are after you have essentially been robbed of your youth and adolescence. Who are you to the world after being known for a singular character? And where does the character begin and the actor end? The memoir also brings forward further thoughtful reflections regarding romanticizing the dead.

McCurdy ponders the lengths she went to make her mother happy during her life, often neglecting her own happiness and identity. She didn’t know who she was without her; she didn’t have her own persona because her mother had dictated most of McCurdy’s life. 

The author explores the process of recognizing, naming, and facing the abuse at her mother’s hands. The experience was incredibly complex and therapeutic, something she wasn’t ready for. She didn’t know with whom she was growing up because she was trying only to please her mom. Only after her mother’s death was McCurdy able to explore their relationship in this book. Through this exploration, she could identify her own wants and needs, discovering herself and her authenticity. The book champions the ability and power of being able to look back and laugh at things.

McCurdy couldn’t accept her mother’s abuse while she was alive; she was operating through the lease of her mother’s wants and views of what was best for her. Accepting that she had an abusive parent meant reframing her entire life, something she didn’t want to face. Through therapy, McCurdy could evaluate her whole life and reclaim it for herself. 

Her relationship with her mother caused significant mental health effects and issues in her life, including anxiety, shame, self-loathing, eating disorders- specifically anorexia and bulimia, alcoholism, OCD, unhealthy relationships, and struggles with religion (being raised Mormon). For anyone suffering from similar issues, her humour and openness regarding it in her life are refreshing, apparent in her description of her OCD: “ My OCD Voice.. which I’ve since accepted as the pounding voice of mental illness” (McCurdy 138). 

Anyone who has suffered from addiction or alcoholism can also relate to her reflections on getting drunk and how your issues disappear:

When I’m drunk, all of my worries disappear- hating my body, the same I feel about my eating habits, coping with my dying mother, starting in a show I’m humiliated to be a part of—it all just goes away. When I’m drunk I’m less anxious, less inhibited, less worried about what Mom would want or think of me- in fact when I’m drunk, the voice of Mom judging me evaporates completely.” (McCurdy 178)

Growing up, I was a fan of McCurdy; she was my favourite character on iCarly. Being only a year younger, it felt unbelievable that there were celebrities and actors around my age on television. The show was a funny sitcom for teenagers and often very relatable, being about a group of friends who start an internet show. 

McCurdy’s portrayal of Sam Puckett always seemed like the hilarious standout performance. It felt nice to have a show catered to your age group as a teen with relatable plot lines and situations. I can even embarrassingly admit now that McCurdy was one of my first celebrity crushes. But this memoir has radically changed my view of the celebrity, child stardom, and the people involved in the media I grew up enjoying.

That is why this memoir was so heartbreaking to get through. Watching her performance on the show, I would have never imagined what she was going through behind the scenes and the fact she never wanted to act or be famous: “I didn’t choose this life. Mom did” (McCurdy 120). The book is filled with McCurdy’s anxieties about living out her Mother’s dream:

I’m aware enough to know how f****** annoying and whiney this all sounds. Millions of people dream of being famous, and here I am with fame and hating it. I somehow feel entitled to my hatred since I was not the one who dreamed of being famous. Mom was. Mom pushed this on me. I’m allowed to hate someone else’s dream, even if it’s my reality.” (220) 

This was shocking for me to read; watching iCarly growing up, I always assumed McCurdy wanted to become an actress and was living out her dreams. I have no idea how much pain in her life fuelled the role. 

The book is sometimes uncomfortably revealing and can often get quite dark, but McCurdy’s brutal honesty, openness, hilarious writing style, and distinctive voice keep you wanting to read more. It makes reading even more challenging if you grew up a fan of McCurdy’s. I grew increasingly guilty for getting so much enjoyment and positively associated memories from her work. Her adolescence and personal identity were essentially stolen from her, and she was being forced to live out a dream that wasn’t hers.

It is disappointing to see the book portrayed in the media with only clickbait and attention-grabbing headlines. The book is about so much more than just Nickelodeon or Hollywood behind-the-scenes gossip. Those who only look for these types of insight will miss the book’s larger purpose. It is a work about recovery from trauma, self-discovery and moving forward. It is ultimately about processing grief and recovery.

For fans of McCurdy, this memoir is a celebration of her positive mental health journey and healing from the trauma of family conflict. If she is genuinely done acting, I believe she could have a new career as a writer given her unique, darkly humorous voice evident on every page. 

This book can be enjoyed by anyone, not just McCurdy fans, and should be used as a positive example of using humour to overcome trauma. Although fair warning, the book’s contents may make you rethink how you look at celebrities and child/teenage actors. 

Works Cited

McCurdy, Jennette. I’m Glad My Mom Died. United Kingdom: Simon & Schuster, 2022.