Welcome to my first book review, and my first blog post on my writing website! I’ve been awaiting the release of The Meaning of Mariah Carey since it was announced earlier this year. Possibly like a few other 2020 things (for example, that silly Bachelor show Listen to Your Heart), the pensive sadness surrounding COVID has placed heightened interest in little escapes of entertainment. I devoured TMOMC in a few short days.
I will start by saying that I am NOT a lamb (a Mariah Carey superfan), but I am a long-time follower, and yes, an admirer of her work. And here as proof, from a few decades and a few last names ago, the CDs I carried around in my first Toyota pickup. It is odd to me that I still have these, but I do! I was one of the few people that saw Glitter in the movie theatre in the fall of 2001 (thank you to my friend Gloria for going with me all those years ago). And when Mariah Carey was in Precious in 2009, I went out of my way to see that. I’ve loosely followed the headlines of her relationships over the years, starting with Tommy Mottola, then Derek Jeter, Nick Cannon, and James Packer. I even watched the short-lived reality show Mariah’s World in 2016 – remember that?
Mariah Carey is one of the first celebrities I remember being aware of. Starting in grade school, I spent an afternoon once a week at my Grandma Holmes’ house. Grandma had a People Magazine subscription. This was pure gold to me, as my mother would never buy People. As soon as I arrived at her house, I’d make a beeline for the couch and read through the latest copy on her coffee table, cover to cover. I still remember seeing the latest photos of Princess Diana, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston Janet Jackson, Jennifer Aniston, and Mariah! This was before the internet, and frankly, much better ( I know that makes me sound old). When I was able to drive and go to Sam Goody at the Carlsbad mall, I bought her and Shania Twain’s CDs. I listened to them over and over.
Mariah’s new memoir is a tale of resilience and determination, painful struggles with racism, and being a part of a family that is dysfunctional and at times, toxic. She’s made mistakes, and she admits them. Parts of her life are deeply relatable, especially having a strained relationship with her mom. I have deep compassion and empathy for anyone who’s gone down that road. The part where she talked of her dad last days with cancer brought me to tears right along with her. Makes sense that she sent her advance reader copies with a box of tissues.
Critics of the story have pointed out that Mariah’s memoir leaves some big holes in her story. Years, relationships, and some embarassing moments are glossed over or skipped entirely. There’s no mention of her relationship with billionaire James Packer, her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, or being on American Idol. She does speak of being exhausted, drained, and anxious, nearly permanently damaged by her mother, brother, and first marriage. I have to consider that her thoughts were all she wanted to say – and that’s her right. It’s her story, her life, her memoir. When we look back on our past, we can choose the parts we want to remember, and what we share years later. Non-celebrities do it all the time, leaving out little bits of the past when they tell stories.
I related to the need to reframe relationships with family members, and letting go of any expectation that parents or siblings will be there for you, or treat you the way you want to be treated. Mariah has gone “no contact” with her siblings, but reserved space for her mom in her life, with boundaries. I enjoyed hearing about her trips to Aspen and the Bahamas, having been to some of those places myself made her stories a little more vivid.
In the last few years, I’ve listened to a few celebrity biographies on audible: Open Book, by Jessica Simpson , Sisters First, by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush, Troublemaker, by Leah Remini, and Down the Rabbit Hole, by Holly Madison. Jessica Simpson’s memoir was my favorite. Jessica had her own encounters with Tommy Mottola and they were not positive, either. If you haven’t listened to it, I highly recommend it. Mariah’s memoir is different, done in her own style, with plenty of flair. Read by anyone else, it might be annoying, but Mariah nails it, in her fabulous, diva way that no one else can pull off.
Mariah released her album the Rarities this week. I’ll leave you with “Here We Go Around” – a song she recorded in 1990, and held onto, unreleased for 30 years, until October 1, 2020. Enjoy!