Book Review: Mean Baby: A Memoir of Growing Up by Selma Blair

Selma Blair writes her way through her pain.

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Release Date: May 17,2022

Publisher: Knopf

Price: $19.85 (hardcover)

PLOT SUMMARY:

The first story Selma Blair Beitner ever heard about herself is that she was a mean, mean baby. With her mouth pulled in a perpetual snarl and a head so furry it had to be rubbed to make way for her forehead, Selma spent years living up to her terrible reputation: biting her sisters, lying spontaneously, getting drunk from Passover wine at the age of seven, and behaving dramatically so that she would be the center of attention.
 
Although Selma went on to become a celebrated Hollywood actress and model, she could never quite shake the periods of darkness that overtook her, the certainty that there was a great mystery at the heart of her life. She often felt like her arms might be on fire, a sensation not unlike electric shocks, and she secretly drank to escape.
 
Over the course of this beautiful and, at times, devastating memoir, Selma lays bare her addiction to alcohol, her devotion to her brilliant and complicated mother, and the moments she flirted with death. There is brutal violence, passionate love, true friendship, the gift of motherhood, and, finally, the surprising salvation of a multiple sclerosis diagnosis.
 
In a voice that is powerfully original, fiercely intelligent, and full of hard-won wisdom, Selma Blair’s Mean Baby is a deeply human memoir and a true literary achievement. 

GRADE: A

REVIEW:

Memoirs are a tricky thing, they can either be fascinating or they can fall short. I’ve watched several movies that Blair has been in, and just as though she felt like an outsider looking in when it came to Hollywood, the same can be said of the characters she has portrayed. Initially, I bought this memoir as an attempt to better understand the illness (MS) that has afflicted both a friend of mine and Blair. But as I tried to relate with my friend, I discovered that there was so much that I could relate with Blair. There are dark moments in Blair’s life that one wouldn’t readily imagine considering the positive image I personally had of her and wasn’t aware of the amount of darkness she actually had for many years.

She talks about heavy topics like alcoholism, suicide, and sexual assault. Her writing is honest, raw, and never tries to sugar coat even the worst moments. But the memoir isn’t only about darkness, but rather finding the light in the dark, and there are a lot of fun 90’s anecdotes. Blair talks about the time she convinced Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon that she was indeed friends with Puff Daddy as a way to impress them, or how she used to greet people with a bite until Kate Moss bit her back and made her lose the quirky habit.

There’s a lot to unpack in this memoir, and I recommend it, especially if you like reading about a time in Hollywood when actors still had an air of mystery to them prior to social media and the internet. Blair is an inspiring role model of fortitude and persistence, and I look forward to reading any of her future books.

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Book Review: Open Book by Jessica Simpson

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You set my soul at ease, chased darkness out of view.

Release Date: February 4, 2020

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Publisher: Dey Street Books

Price: $18.06 (hardback)

Plot Summary:

This was supposed to be a very different book. Five years ago, Jessica Simpson was approached to write a motivational guide to living your best life. She walked away from the offer, and nobody understood why. The truth is that she didn’t want to lie.

Jessica couldn’t be authentic with her readers if she wasn’t fully honest with herself first.
Now America’s Sweetheart, preacher’s daughter, pop phenomenon, reality tv pioneer, and the billion-dollar fashion mogul invites readers on a remarkable journey, examining a life that blessed her with the compassion to help others but also burdened her with an almost crippling need to please. Open Book is Jessica Simpson using her voice, heart, soul, and humor to share things she’s never shared before.

Grade: A

Review:

Let me preface this with, I’m not a fan of Jessica Simpson. Sure I know of her from seeing her in teen mags in the late 90’s (who mostly focused on the fact that she was a virgin dating the much older Nick Lachey from 98 Degrees) than her music. In fact, I had never listened to any of her songs till recently (I wasn’t aware that MTV didn’t want to play her songs). But I was intrigued to read her memoir cause it seemed like a fun, spill-all type of book (yes, I’m nosy). And well, Jessica delivered on her promise to be an open book.

We learn some interesting things about her. How she went to the Chuck Norris school of acting (it basically consisted of him taping down her eyebrows because his fave actor is Denzel Washington and apparently he doesn’t move his eyebrows when delivering his lines). I never really noticed that tidbit, but I’m sure as hell gonna focus on Denzel’s eyebrows next time I see him in a movie.

Jessica is the sort of good-hearted Texan gal that we all wish we had as a best friend. On many occasions in her memoir, I felt sorry for her. The girl can sing and yet Tommy Mattola kept trying to make her into the next Britney (with dire results) with Janet Jackson abs (this, in turn, lead her down a road of self-loathing, self-doubt, and diet pills). Let’s all remember the girl was just 18-19 yrs. old.

She also goes into detail about her high profile wedding with Nick Lachey and her turbulent romance with John Mayer (spoiler alert: Mayer’s as much of a creepo jerk that I had always suspected him to be but much much worse).

But one thing that I really loved most about the book was that Jessica is unapologetically herself, meaning that no one has managed to have her question her faith even when times were bleak. And her willingness to give back to people (especially service members) is really telling of her character. I also like that she doesn’t try to paint herself as a saint and her exes as villains. She merely lets us in on events and willingly admits her faults. Nick Lachey seemed to resent the fact that Jessica couldn’t transform into a doting housewife (and how could she? She was twenty-two and never taught any household chores since she spent her childhood going to voice lessons and performing). John Mayer was obsessed with her and was a total sociopath when it came to her (breaking up with her multiple times over email!) only to beg her to take him back.

I know that Jessica has a billion-dollar empire now with her Jessica Simpson Collection line, but the real tragedy is that she wasn’t allowed to be herself artistically speaking. Her managers kept wanting her to be more like Britney Spears that she just became a terrible copy of her. Unlike Spears, Jessica CAN sing, and her talent deserved so much more.

Open Book is the sort of inspiring celebrity memoir that you didn’t know you needed.

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Find out why this photo haunts Jessica

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