Born With Teeth

By Kate Mulgrew

Little, Brown and Company, $28, 320 pages)

Who is this author?

Maybe you know her as Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager, Mary Ryan on Ryan’s Hope, or Galina “Red” Reznikov on Orange Is the New Black. Or as Mrs. Columbo. Or as Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, a role she played to great reviews in a Hartford Stage production. Or you may know her from one of her other many roles on stage, TV or film or as a fund-raiser in the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease, which afflicted her mother. But Kate Mulgrew, now 60, also is an accomplished writer, as shown by her memoir, Born With Teeth, which is garnering enthusiastic reviews.

What is this book about?

Mulgrew writes that she grew up in an unconventional Irish Catholic family in the Midwest, raised by parents who knew “how to drink, how to dance, how to talk, and how to stir up the devil,” which seems like great training for an actress-to-be. She headed to New York at age 18, studied with the famous Stella Adler and then had an unplanned pregnancy and gave her daughter up for adoption, a decision that haunted her for decades even as she enjoyed considerable professional success. There were other serious problems, including a rape, that she had to overcome. Known for her roles as strong women who handle challenges well, Mulgrew the writer proves that she can reflect on her life’s ups and downs with candor, humor, sadness and wisdom.

Why you’ll like it:

Mulgrew, unsurprisingly, pulls no punches in this very frank memoir about her personal and professional life.  It’s always fascinating to read the back story of a star that you may think you know; it’s doubly delightful when that back story is presented by a talented writer. Not many actors have the kind of insight and literary skills to create a memorable book, as Mulgrew has so ably done.

What others are saying:

Publishers Weekly’s starred review says: “In Mulgrew’s assured gem of a memoir, fans of the actress will delight in discovering her writing chops are as accomplished as her award-winning acting. Growing up, she lived in Derby Grange, a massive 1850s house in Dubuque, Iowa, where Mulgrew and her seven siblings enjoyed magical childhoods. Her eccentric artist mother, whose best friend was Jean Kennedy Smith, sent the budding actress to New York at 18, where she studied with the legendary Stella Adler. Mulgrew’s career took off quickly when she landed the lead in the soap Ryan’s Hope in 1975. Her unplanned pregnancy during that time was written into the script, although only a handful knew the baby girl was placed for adoption at birth. The events devastated Mulgrew, as did the early deaths of two beloved siblings and a rape she survived near her Manhattan apartment. But she kept moving forward, powerfully devoted to her life through broken romantic relationships, the joy of getting the lucrative starring role in Star Trek: Voyager, and finding her daughter at last in 2007. Mulgrew’s mother was her muse and true confidante, until the first signs of Alzheimer’s appeared. Readers will savor Mulgrew’s gift for erudite, honest writing and want to read more about her mesmerizing life.”

Mulgrew swaggers endearingly across its pages, her ‘able and hardy constitution’ ever on display as she powers through the many challenges—both personal and professional—that life has tossed her way. Eloquent and impassioned, the book reaches beyond the standard Hollywood memoir to something more affecting and enduring…Throughout, she narrates with the grandeur of a stage diva holding court: ‘Actresses. What a bunch of sad saps, we are,’ she intones. ‘Madly in love with the child. Madly in love with the craft. Trying desperately to forge an alliance with the two, and constantly failing.’ Mulgrew can be proud that this memoir, her defining monologue, proves otherwise,” says the Washington Post.

Says Library Journal: “Actress Mulgrew’s autobiography is an intriguing look at a very interesting life. She left her home in Iowa at 18 in the Seventies and studied with Stella Adler in New York, determined to become an actress. She quickly earned stardom on the TV soap opera Ryan’s Hope and her life changed forever. Despite her public success with acting, behind the scenes Mulgrew went through many emotional traumas with her children and in her personal life. She describes her deep sorrow when she gave a daughter up for adoption and how she eventually reconciled with her. This well-written book has great stories, as Mulgrew is a fantastic storyteller. It also is a very honest recollection of some of the experiences she has had and how, through it all, acting has remained her passion. VERDICT Mulgrew’s enjoyable narrative is compelling as she portrays her decades of acting work, personal triumphs and heartbreaks, and her mesmerizing life.”

Born with Teeth jumps spectacularly from tale to trial, each approached with abandon and honesty. Reading it feels like joining a friend on a spontaneous adventure that extends to another day, another party, another trip, leaving you breathless and unable to do anything but follow,” says The Miami Herald.

When is it available?

Mulgrew’s memoir is on the shelf at the Downtown Hartford Public Library.

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