Jennette McCurdy visits UMass Boston


Image of Book “I’m Glad My Mom Died”, By Jennette McCurdy on table pre talk with Jennette event hosted by SAEC and Mass Media. Photo by Olivia Reid (She/Her) / Photography Editor. 

Rena Weafer, Arts Editor

On Feb. 17, students lined up outside the Campus Center Ballroom, awaiting the arrival of Jennette McCurdy. The Mass Media and the Student Arts and Events Council announced their collaboration to bring the guest speaker just the day before, but that didn’t affect the turnout.  

McCurdy first gained public recognition for her role as Sam Puckett on Nickelodeon shows, “iCarly” and “Sam & Cat.” Lately she is a New York Times bestselling author for her book, “I’m Glad My Mom Died.”  

In her book, she describes her forced journey as a child actor and her complicated relationship with her mother. During the talk, she shared that she has always wanted to write and would scribble onto a page, pretending to be an author, as a toddler. At age 11, McCurdy took a creative writing class, and it captivated her.  

However, when her mother discovered this passion, she quickly shut it down—she believed it would take away from her daughter’s acting. Despite these wishes, McCurdy took more writing classes at 18, and at 24 she stepped away from acting to work on writing full-time.  

Because of the suffocating pressure to act that was forced on McCurdy by her mother when she was only six years old, McCurdy shared that she had severe negative baggage tied to her acting career. The decision to quit was complicated because people told her she was good at acting. She also mentioned feeling selfish, saying, “Who am I to walk away from this career?” She explained how it felt weird to walk away from what so many people wanted.   

However, McCurdy explained that she needed to step away because outside of acting, she didn’t know who she was. When she acted, she described her existence as “vapid, soul-sucking and empty” because it was so uneventful. She was on autopilot most of the time. 

Writing, on the other hand, was creatively fulfilling for her. There is no autopilot to writing—so it was scarier—but also more exciting for her because her work was her own. McCurdy advised the audience to chase only what they really want.

“I know what it’s like to pursue something unfulfilling, and it’s too long of a road,” she said.  

McCurdy spent years journaling before actually writing her first book. She explained that her journaling was very fragmented, and she used it more to process her emotions. Her book, on the other hand, was written after six years of weekly therapy sessions when she had already processed those emotions. She emphasized that she only started writing her book after she had enough distance from the events that she talks about. 

In “I’m Glad My Mom Died,” McCurdy focuses on the entertaining and humorous aspects of her own painful past. She mentions a time when she was six and watched her mom chase her dad around with a knife, all the while cheering her mom on. While this is obviously concerning to read as adults looking in, it has humor to it. 

The book only showcases certain parts of McCurdy’s life—from age six to her early twenties—so McCurdy keeps some parts to herself, even though it may seem like she bares her whole story. She shared during the event that her brothers were incredibly helpful during the writing process because they are some of the only ones who understand the traumatic content. However difficult it may have been to write about, she knew it would be worse to stop, so she pushed through.  

McCurdy expresses herself through many different mediums, but her favorite is writing because of how intimate it is. Additionally, she loves directing because it’s what she feels she’s best at. She explained that she loves bringing out creativity in actors and guiding them to have a more involved role in projects. Furthermore, she believes she’s great at keeping a crew and team on task and inspired. 

Because of vast life experience McCurdy has had, she shared several pieces of advice for the audience. She told anyone who wants to start their mental healing journey to just go for it, and go for it now. She said that her journey smoothed out considerably after her twenties, and she promised life won’t always feel as confusing as it might in college. Everyone needs therapy, she assured, and especially those that are most resistant to it. 

Difficult family relationships are a major theme in the book. During the event, McCurdy explained that cliche phrases about family, like “blood is thicker than water,” can have negative repercussions. She shared that she was obsessed with fixing her family and fixated on the idea of having a “happy” one, but in the end, it was her chosen family that had the most impact. It’s okay that not all families are functional, she emphasized; just focus on the people who treat you well. 

She also reflected on the change in her life since the book was released: “Day to day just looks so different. The opportunities I have now are unimaginable. It’s just unbelievable,” she said

The UMass Boston students who were able to attend the event­—around 450 in total—seemed to love it, judging by the ongoing applause they gave McCurdy after she finished. Eruptions of applause were also given throughout the talk as she delivered her fiery advice to the audience.

Bendu, a junior at UMass Boston said, “I really liked how she said you can use your emotions as information to help you highlight [what’s important] because it’s easy to discredit yourself and berate your own feelings.” 

Sabrin, also a junior, said “I liked seeing her personality because I only know her from her show, which she hated doing. It just really put it into perspective.” 

Jennette McCurdy also mentioned a couple upcoming projects to look out for, including a debut novel and a couple directing projects. Her book, “I’m Glad My Mom Died” is available for purchase at any book retailer.