I had the pleasure this spring of devouring Kate Mulgrew’s Born with Teeth, a memoir in which she discusses her acting career, her family, and the ups and downs of balancing a passion for her art with her attempts at a conventional personal life (attempts which admittedly meet with mixed success). I will admit it—I wanted to read this book because of my youthful obsession with Captain Kathryn Janeway, leader of the USS Voyager. However, once I dived in, I discovered that there was so much more than just her time on a well-known sci-fi series.
I had previously had no idea, for example, that Mulgrew had had a long and successful stage career before she graced the small screen as Captain Janeway. The book takes readers from her tumultuous youth (juxtaposing her breakout work on a well-known soap opera from the 1970s with the heartache of an unplanned pregnancy and giving up a child for adoption) through her successful stage career as an adult and her eventual acceptance of the Star Trek: Voyager role that made her so well known to so many geeks. For anyone who isn’t a Kate Mulgrew scholar, the book contains surprises around every corner, all told in a voice that welcomes the reader into her confidence.
Though this is certainly not a book that only women will enjoy, there is an aspect to it that will particularly appeal to anyone who struggles to strike a balance between family, work, and passion. Throughout her life, Mulgrew has made difficult choices between what she wanted and what she felt she should want, between her passions and what she was expected to do. It’s a mark of a well-written book that I was invested enough to actually yell at the it on a few different occasions, much as you would (or at least I would) yell at the leggy blonde who—for Pete’s sake, don’t open the door to the dark basement, the serial killer is right behind it! Though there are (spoiler alert?) no serial killers in Born With Teeth, I was drawn in to the narrative enough to become similarly invested in the well-being of those involved.
One of my favorite things about this book is the use of the personal photos that accompany each chapter heading, allowing the reader a literal glimpse of some of the key players who are discussed. The ability to put faces to names enhances the storytelling. Many books include a sheaf of photos in the center of the book, which are then experienced out of context and as an afterthought, but the placement of the photos in Born with Teeth allows them to be seamlessly worked into the narrative.
As a fan of Star Trek: Voyager, I can say that other fans of the show will not be disappointed. Though her time on the show does not dominate the book as I (sheepishly) hoped, she does spend time on it, including giving the story and context around how she came to be second choice for the role that I can’t imagine anyone else in. However, Orange is the New Black fans take note: the narrative ends in the early 2000s, well before she took on the character of the Russian inmate Red in the well-loved Netflix series. Nevertheless, anyone who has admired Kate Mulgrew’s work will enjoy this effortless read, which provides the reader with anecdotes to work into the next Star Trek conversation—which one must be prepared for at any time.
You can visit the Born with Teeth page on the publisher’s website to learn more about the book and where to pick it up. Happy reading!