Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

There comes a time when reading critically acclaimed works of highbrow literary fiction–you know the type–where you close the book in exasperation, thinking to yourself, “How much more suffering must I be forced to read this person endure? Haven’t they been through enough?”

On Tuesday, I had that same experience, the feeling of sadness mixed with horror and disgust. But the book I was reading was Britney Spears’ memoir.

Far from a typical, juicy tell-all of a mega pop icon, Spears’ much-anticipated The Woman in Me reads more like a Gothic horror novel, full of endless pain, suffering, and trauma. By the end Spears emerges as a resilient heroine, but it’s by no means an uplifting story and it’s hard to find an inspirational message from its pages.

“Tragedy runs in my family,” Spears writes in some of the book’s first pages, going on to describe how her namesake, her father’s mother, Jean, died by suicide in her 30s after enduring a loveless marriage to an abusive husband, Spears’ grandfather. But it’s clear that what runs through the Spears lineage is more like generational trauma, a never-ending cycle of hurt people hurting people that has left Spears, at 41, picking up the ashes of what was once a celebrated life and career.

“I feel like I’ve been underwater for so long, only rarely swimming up to the surface to gasp for air and a little food,” she writes, “…I’ve been taking it a day at a time and trying to be thankful for the little things.”

Spears wrote the book, she says, so that her fans and the world will understand her life story, as she sees it, in her own words. Thus, her memoir is less of the victory lap typical of other celebrity memoirs and more of a confession, of someone attempting to set the record straight about what they experienced.

For so long, the public has been fed one story of Spears. When she first came on the scene, we were told she was a virginal, fun-loving teenager. Her family was loving (did anyone else obsess over her 2000 memoir written with her mother about their perfect relationship, or just me?), and her joy and zest for life was infectious. For young millennial girls, she was the slightly rebellious role model who made us feel bold enough to show a little skin, knowing full well that we were good girls at heart.

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