Review of Marlee Matlin's Autobiography "I'll Scream Later"

Cover of I'll Scream Later
Cover of I'll Scream Later. Photo Courtesy of PriceGrabber

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In 1987, I was part of the first graduating class of Gallaudet University (changed from Gallaudet College) and expected that the spotlight would be on us. Then we found out that Marlee Matlin would be our guest speaker! Some students were resentful, me included. When Matlin walked up and down the aisles shaking hands, I would not shake her hand. I still remember a slightly puzzled expression on her face.

But if I had known then what I know now after reading her book, I would have shaken her hand and said, "Congratulations on recently beating your drug addiction! When are you going to leave your boyfriend?"

Positive Aspects of the Book

Matlin shares her more painful moment, particularly the babysitter molestation incident. That was a painful part of the book to read, even more painful than what happened in her abusive relationship with actor William Hurt because she was a child at the time of the babysitter incident. That babysitter incident had me squirming in discomfort and anxious to move on in the book. Another part that had me squirming with almost as much discomfort was reading about her teacher who also sexually abused her as a teenager.

She honestly tells of her experience with drugs and her efforts to overcome her addiction. Matlin went into rehab right after the 1987 Golden Globes.

Doing that was a mature decision to make, especially since it made her unavailable for Oscar publicity for Children of a Lesser God.

She makes it clear that acting is a job. I liked how she wrote that any time an actor is not working, they are struggling. Actors have to feed their children and keep a roof over their heads like anyone.

Matlin shares her "deaf experience," both as a working actress and personally. I do wish she had written more about being deaf, especially her school years, but then again, as Matlin writes, she wants to be seen as more than just a deaf actress. She wants to be seen as an actress who is deaf.

Although she mentions other causes that she supports, Matlin makes clear her passion for captioning. If we ever have legislation to mandate captioning online, Matlin will probably be the first influential deaf person to back it publicly.

Negative Aspects of the Book

At times, "I'll Scream Later" is too personal, particularly when discussing Matlin's family. It would have been a better, shorter book if some of the more personal material had been dropped. In addition, I felt it was too personal about her sex life prior to meeting her husband.

The book is not exactly chronological. It jumps around, mixing up the past and future, making it difficult at times to follow the chronology of her life and acting career.

The writing caused some unanswered questions in my mind as I read. For example, when Matlin wrote that during the times she did not have work, her interpreter Jack Jason also struggled, I wondered how Jason supported himself during the lean times.

The book's tone is personal yet it is also too impersonal. It veers back and forth between Matlin's own words, and what appears to be the results of interviews by her editor with other people.

I would have liked to have read more about the accomplishments of her production company, Solo One. It barely gets a mention in the book.

Final Comments on I'll Scream Later

You really have to read the entire book to get the full picture of Matlin's life. The excerpts that have been published in the media do not give the full picture.

I'll Scream Later is best appreciated if you approach it for what it really is.

It is really a tell-all book that is a growing up deaf story with Hollywood overtones. Indeed, most of the book is about young Matlin, whom I define as Matlin before she met her one and only husband, Kevin. Matlin was truly a young girl when she made Children of a Lesser God -- she was only 19 years old at the time the film was produced.

Matlin is part of the Hollywood glitz and glamour, yet removed from it at the same time. When Matlin writes about attending the Oscars again after the 1987 Academy Awards at which she won Best Actress for her role in Children of a Lesser God, it is like saying that she is going to an office party.

It is a shame that most of the publicity about the book has centered on Matlin's tell-all about her relationship with Hurt and/or the early sexual abuse. How much better it would have been if the publicity for the book had focused on Matlin's hard work to build a sustainable career for herself in Hollywood. But that would not have been as headline-grabbing.

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