My husband & I finally started Orange is the New Black a few weeks ago (this is how I read so many freaking books, people — I’m five years behind on must see TV). Kate Mulgrew’s portrayal of Red quickly became one of my favorite performances. She’s tough, she’s smart, and she’s a person. I’m constantly impressed with her. I was so happy to see Mulgrew’s autobiography well-reviewed on this site. While it doesn’t touch on her time as Red (it ends with her role as Capt. Janeway, which I’ve never seen), it’s definitely one of the best-written celebrity memoirs I’ve ever read (and I’ve read A LOT).
“Picasso wasn’t in conflict, you can bet your bottom dollar on that. He said, Scram! I need to work, and his mistresses and their spawn ran for the hills. Dickens wasn’t in conflict. He had ten children and wrote as many novels in almost as many years, because it was both understood and appreciated that he was gifted, famous, and rich. The male artist has always been respected.”
Mulgrew begins the book with her childhood: raised in a large Irish-Catholic family with a mother who wanted to be an artist, but kept having babies at home while her husband ran around. Mulgrew realized early that she was drawn to poetry and drama, and did everything in her power to fulfill her dream of getting out of her small town. She falls deeply in love with the theater, while acting on TV shows to help pay the bills. She speaks honestly about her relationships, her mistakes, and her incredible drive. The cover blurb puts a lot of focus on Mulgrew’s decision to give a baby up for adoption at the age of 22, when she got pregnant and the father refused to help her raise the baby. While that was obviously a traumatic event in her life that affected many of her future decisions, it’s not quite the main story like the cover makes out. Instead, it’s one step along Kate’s journey, albeit one she returns to several more times.
I was struck over and over by the writing in this novel. It’s beautiful. Mulgrew’s love of poetry shines through every word. I listened to the audiobook, read by the author herself, and highly recommend that version. She has a powerful presence, even over a set of earbuds.