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Book Review: Britney Spears: The Woman In Me by Britney Spears

Believe me, I'm just as surprised as you are.

When I’m not listening to an album, watching a video or posting something about music, I’m probably reading about it in a memoir or biography. Like this one:


Britney Spears: The Woman In Me
By Britney Spears

I know, I know. Believe me, I’m just as surprised as you are. I sure didn’t expect to find myself reading this. I definitely didn’t expect to like it. And I most certainly didn’t expect it to make me rethink my opinion of Britney Spears. But I came across a copy online and figured what the hell. How bad could it be? At the very worst, it could be good for a laugh, I thought. Turns out it’s a solid piece of work — surprisingly readable, decently written, truly revealing and undeniably compelling. And yeah, it gives you a new perspective on a tale and a person you thought you already knew. Go figure.

Whoever ghostwrote this — no one is named in the book, though I’ve seen a couple of writers mentioned online — deserves a lot of the credit. The style is chatty and conversational, as if Spears is writing in her journal or sitting across the table from you over a drink. But it’s also far more mature, serious and thoughtful than her girly, exclamation point-filled social media posts. Bonus points for that. But ultimately, you have to give the biggest props to Spears, who doesn’t shy away from spilling the beans, pointing fingers and naming names of everyone who wronged her over the decades. And there’s plenty of blame to go around.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve already heard or read most of the highlights (or, more accurately, lowlights): Douchey Justin Timberlake pushing her to have an abortion before cheating on her, dumping her via text and then painting her as a heartbreaking harlot; pathetic Kevin Federline using her fame to leverage his own; skeevy music industry types exploiting her; ingrate family members sponging off her; and so on. But of course, the biggest, baddest villain of the piece is her father, whom she describes as an abusive alcoholic who took over her life, had her institutionalized and siphoned away millions of dollars during a controversial 13-year conservatorship that essentially reduced her to some sort of a cross between a performing robot, a mindless zombie and a trained seal.

(Speaking of, I reviewed one of her shows during this period and wrote: “Let’s face it, Spears isn’t exactly Miss Independent. Truth be told, she’s more like Miss Aging Pop Princess Who Has Been Permanently Scarred by Fame and Fortune and Now Seems to be a Puppet Trapped in Some Sort of Waking Faustian Nightmare Where She Will be Forced to Lip-Synch Vapid Dance-Pop Songs Like Some Pathetic Overgrown Tweenager Until the Day She Dies. Not to put too fine a point on it.” But I digress.)

Thanks to Spears’ candor, The Woman In Me goes a long way toward righting some of the wrongs. Or at least reshaping the narrative. As you read the story from her perspective, you see how she was variously used, exploited, controlled, victimized, infantilized, traumatized and manipulated pretty much from the second she started singing in public until the moment she wrested control of her life back from her father. You genuinely feel sorry for her. You honestly root for her. You’re left wondering how this could have happened — and would it have happened if she were a man? And you can totally understand why she now says she will “never return to the music industry.”

When it’s all said and done, it turns out that guy who made the ‘Leave Britney alone!’ video was right on the money. Go figure.