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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