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Books that Inform My Writing—“The Meaning of Mariah Carey”

by | Aug 30, 2022 | Books, Music

I picked up the Mariah Carey memoir after listening to a Rolling Stone music podcast where the hosts raved about it. I started reading the book right away but it took me awhile to finish it. It’s a dense book and a lot of the topics are heavy. There are lengthy sections about her unstable and sometimes unsafe childhood, the racism she faced as the child of a white mother and Black father, and her prison-like marriage to a controlling music executive. 

When I’m reading books, particularly memoirs, I keep a little book journal so I can write down the quotes that I like or any sort of feelings and observations I’m having while I read. I’ll make notes like, “Yes! I’ve felt this way before” or “This is exactly what my character in my book is going through.”

I took lots of notes while reading The Meaning of Mariah Carey. There were many parts of her story that I related to or that reminded me of something my characters are going through. 

On Mother/Child Conflict

In the first book of my Reveal Me series, my protagonist has a conflict with her mother. In the beginning of the story she feels smothered by her mother but as the story goes on she faces that the issue runs deeper. The following passage from Mariah Carey‘s book describes a similar dynamic:  

“Though a subtle, brief moment, this was the first big blow in a long line of times when people close to me would try to put me down, put me in my place, underestimate me, or take advantage of me. But she, above all, was the most devastating, because she was the most essential. She was my mother.”

The Meaning of Mariah Carey

On Childhood Shame

My protagonist is also struggling with internal shame over something that happened in her past. Mariah Carey describes lingering shame from her own childhood: 

“I internalized so many of the damaging and cruel critiques older people had given me as a child and young woman; some have burrowed so deep down in my psyche that I will never be able to root them out entirely.”

The Meaning of Mariah Carey

On Sexual Awakening

One of the main themes I write about is sexual awakening. There’s an entire chapter in Mariah Carey’s book that describes her own awakening in a real and beautiful way.

I get chills on my shoulders reading this line:

“Eventually I realized how aware everyone was of our attraction, but I didn’t care. This was my night out, and I was feeling the sweetness of freedom, the rush and allure of it all. I knew I was being watched, but to hell with that.” 

The Meaning of Mariah Carey

One of her songs, “The Roof (Back in Time)” is about that first real romance, which ignited on a building rooftop. Here’s what she wrote about her feelings around that experience. 

“I was still absorbed in the memory of the roof and wasn’t willing to fall back into the mud of despair. A new part of me was alive, and I was intent on feeding it.“

The Meaning of Mariah Carey

Have you ever read a book or memoir that gave you insight into a project you were working on or into your own life?


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