Born with Teeth (CBR8 #19)

I don’t know that I would have ever picked up Kate Mulgrew’s poignant and beautifully written memoir if it hadn’t been for narfna’s lovely review from late last year. Sure, I had put it on my 500 book deep to read list over on Goodreads (side note: I may have an electronic hoarding problem – send help!), but it like many other “oh that looks interesting” books would have slipped past my immediate attention.

You see, I didn’t know who Captain Janeway was.

My only real recognition of roles played by Mulgrew before reading this book were her Emmy-nominated turn as Red on Orange is the New Black and as Latimer’s mom on Warehouse 13. I have since scanned her IMDB page and can honestly say I’ve missed most of her work along the way. And that says nothing of all the stage work she’s done – I recognized many of the plays as she talked about them in the book, but I have never had the pleasure of seeing her on stage, as is the case with most people I’m sure.

But even though I missed *the role* which should have defined Mulgrew for people my age, I didn’t need to know anything about it because Mulgrew’s life and story are both mirror images of my family, and exist on a plane we won’t ever understand. Mulgrew is roughly my mother’s age, and I am the same age as her two sons (give or take). Mulgrew is both very Irish and very Catholic and that is a way of life I understand very well.

Seriously, when I saw this picture I thought it was one of my mom’s cousins.

Born with Teeth covers Mulgrew’s life from birth until about 2000. In prose that is simultaneously poetic and precise Mulgrew takes the reader on the journey of what it was like to grow up in her rather eccentric, but all too relatable household. Mulgrew is one of eight children raised in her Irish Catholic home in Iowa. Her story, like the story of so many people, includes the deaths of siblings, her early career choices and hopes, substantial professional achievements, and private sorrows. It is apparent while reading (or in my case listening to) Mulgrew’s work to see the precision and care she took to make her real emotions and experiences apparent and understandable to the reader (because seriously, how many people’s mothers were friends of Jean Kennedy and summered with the family at Hyannis port, and were therefore occasionally pulled into the larger political world?)

I don’t want to talk too much about the course of Mulgrew’s life, because I’m hoping that you’ll take the time to seek out this book for yourself, or take a wander down the interwebs to discover more of her story. I will point out that the Audible audio version includes an interview that Mulgrew did as part of the book tour last year, and it was an enjoyable addition.