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Monday, August 17, 2015

Review: Born With Teeth

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Born With Teeth: A Memoir
by Kate Mulgrew
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:

Raised by unconventional Irish Catholics who knew "how to drink, how to dance, how to talk, and how to stir up the devil," Kate Mulgrew grew up with poetry and drama in her bones. But in her mother, a would-be artist burdened by the endless arrival of new babies, young Kate saw the consequences of a dream deferred. Determined to pursue her own no matter the cost, at 18 she left her small Midwestern town for New York, where, studying with the legendary Stella Adler, she learned the lesson that would define her as an actress: "Use it," Adler told her. Whatever disappointment, pain, or anger life throws in your path, channel it into the work.

It was a lesson she would need. At twenty-two, just as her career was taking off, she became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter. Having already signed the adoption papers, she was allowed only a fleeting glimpse of her child. As her star continued to rise, her life became increasingly demanding and fulfilling, a whirlwind of passionate love affairs, life-saving friendships, and bone-crunching work. Through it all, Mulgrew remained haunted by the loss of her daughter, until, two decades later, she found the courage to face the past and step into the most challenging role of her life, both on and off screen.

We know Kate Mulgrew for the strong women she's played--Captain Janeway on Star Trek; the tough-as-nails "Red" on Orange is the New Black. Now, we meet the most inspiring and memorable character of all: herself. By turns irreverent and soulful, laugh-out-loud funny and heart-piercingly sad, BORN WITH TEETH is the breathtaking memoir of a woman who dares to live life to the fullest, on her own terms.


I'm only familiar with Kate Mulgrew's work on Star Trek: Voyager, but enough of her personality and force of character on the show came through to make me interested in her as an actress and in her career, so I was happy to read her memoir.  It indeed delivers in showcasing her personality through her voice and in the way she has lived her life so far.  And what I found extra enchanting about the book, was in how well Kate Mulgrew writes - her prose is often poetic and the way she describes some of the difficulties she has had in her life was very moving.

Her story has a way of being unapologetic about the way she has lived her life, and I found that very interesting when she talked about giving up her child for adoption.  Her struggle to have a career and be a good mother was so thought-provoking, and while I feel like some of her choices might not be thought of well by others, I loved that she faced those decisions bravely, and stayed true to her passions and what she wanted out of life.  It was refreshing to feel that she didn't shy away from the issue too much, and embraced and discussed her life with such openness.  The memoir also gives an interesting view of the behind the scenes of working in television and film; even though Kate doesn't go into a lot of detail, especially with Voyager.  The acting side of her life is not as well described as her personal life, which felt appropriate because this book was more about Kate Mulgrew's emotional journey and not her career.

The memoir ends a bit abruptly to me - I mean, Kate wraps up the book well, but ends it a few years before present day.  I would have wanted to learn more about how her second marriage ended since the courtship is so well described, but it does seem like the real emotional arc of the book is Kate's experience giving up her child for adoption and that story is wrapped up perfectly.  This is a memoir that can be selective as far as history, but often felt like a vivd, sometimes moving, sometimes hilarious conversation with the author, and I enjoyed that intimacy Kate Mulgrew was able to convey through her words.  Definitely any fan of the actress, or of a rich, dramatic personality should read this book.

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