Book Review: Growing Up Again
I recently read “Growing Up Again” by Mary Tyler Moore, celebrity diabetic and chairperson of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Since this book is of particular interest to so many of my readers, I thought I would post an extended version of my review from Goodreads. As someone else noted on Goodread, this book reads as if it was written in a couple of afternoons and immediately sent off to the publisher. While it stays true to Mary’s personality, Mary’s literary style is more in line with a blog than a memoir. Too many tangents, self-referential comments and irrelevant questions to the reader that has nothing to do with her story made for some very distracting writing.
There were several parts that I thought she did a good job explaining the emotional impact of diabetes, but there were many instances, such as her acting career, her time on Broadway and the chapter on dancing that had almost no connection to diabetes at all, save for one or two hypoglycemia incidents. Of course, Mary doesn’t seem to have a great grasp on what her blood sugar was even like during those times, so it’s actually harder to relate because she was so clueless up until a few years ago when she starting getting complications.
She writes, “When we were settled, he asked when my ast eye examination was. I told him that I couldn’t recall any during the fifteen years that followed the diabetes diagnosis. ‘No one cautioned you about the need for vigilant and frequent updates on your status?’ he barked.”
Imagine where Mary would be if she’d been plugged into the D.O.C. when she was diagnosed…
Her chapter on complications I thought was the best, because as someone who is young and healthy, I don’t know very much about this. So I appreciated her insight into what going through that was like.
I also didn’t mind her references to JDRF, and in fact, her chapter talking about their involvement and what JDRF does was very interesting and gave some backstory I wasn’t aware of. Mary is chairman of the organization, so obviously she would never publicly criticize it and would only urge people to be a part of it. I think that’s in line with other people in similar capacities. Her work with JDRF also fundamentally changed how she viewed her own life with diabetes, as she states, “It took me years and years to get to the point where I could announce to the world, ‘I am Mary Tyler Moore and I have diabetes.’ But announce it I did in 1984, when I agreed to become the international chairman for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.” (She’s been the chairman longer than I’ve been alive? Wow!).
She also touched upon how to balance the urgency for a cure with the “I can do anything!” spirit of people with diabetes. She writes, “My mind was clicking with these questions: If I tell the public that I have diabetes, won’t they say to themsleves, ‘Well, it can’t be all that serious a diase. Look at her, she’s energetic, bursting with health, never sick! There are much wrose diseases than diabetes.’ The other end of the seesaw (do they still have those?) was my fear that as the public watched me acting my brains out they would be thinking, ‘Oh, it’s sad she has diabetes and, from what I hear, there is no cure for it.'”
(That excerpt is also an example of Mary’s rhetorical, irrelevant questions – why on earth would you ask about the existence of seesaws in the middle of that otherwise profound statement?)
Although most chapters have some connection to diabetes, she often loses track that that’s the point of her story, and instead deviates into other parts of her background – dancing, her relationship with her father – which, while interesting, are never clearly connected back to her diabetes, such as how diabetes affected her dancing. And connected they are, but I didn’t feel that Mary really did much self-analysis. Either that or she left it up to the reader on purpose.
For the most part, I don’t think this was that great of a book on diabetes. There were some cameos by some JDRF friends, including Mollie and Jackie Singer, so it was a treat to read their words in there. Certainly there are other books that are better and better written. If you’re a Mary Tyler Moore fan, and want to learn more about diabetes, or just want to get a very cursory knowledge of diabetes, I’d read this book. If you’re a diabetic, you will be disappointed, but still worth a read considering it’s Mary Tyler Moore, I think. Just don’t get your hopes up.