Review: Actor Minka Kelly bares all in stunning new memoir

“Tell Me Everything” by Minka Kelly (Henry Holt and Company)

To most of us, Minka Kelly is cheerleader Lyla Garrity from the much-loved high school football series “Friday Night Lights.” And the masked vigilante Dawn Granger (Dove) in the DC superhero show “Titans.” Or one of the dozens of other roles she has taken on in a prolific acting career that’s spanned two decades.

What we don’t know is how it all started. And how troubling and painful it was.

Kelly pulls back the curtain on her deeply traumatic early life in a stunning, achingly honest new memoir. “Tell Me Everything” is much more than just a title. It’s a promise from Kelly to her readers. The 42-year-old actor holds back absolutely nothing.

She shares tales of neglect, abuse and manipulation. The material is harrowing. But it’s honest and unflinching. Kelly recounts dancing at peep shows, suffering a beating at the hands of her stepfather and being coerced into making a sex tape.

At its center, though, “Tell Me Everything” is about Kelly’s relationship with her late mother, Maureen, an exotic dancer who struggled with addiction and had difficulty making ends meet. The two spent years relying on friends and relatives to take them in, living at one point in a garage and at another, in a storage unit.

In perhaps the most jarring and raw moment of the book, Kelly considers the value of her very existence.

“There have been times, I have to be honest, when I’ve been mad at her for having birthed me,” Kelly writes. “I didn’t ask for all this. I didn’t ask for this trauma.”

Kelly rights the ship as she gets older, though, working as a scrub nurse and eventually as a model and actor. She reconnects with her mom and eventually makes peace with her.

Kelly has called the book a tribute to all working-class single mothers — hers in particular.

“Tell Me Everything” is shocking, yes, but Kelly’s story is one of resilience. And, just maybe, catharsis. Kelly revels in telling her story on her terms.

“I spent so many years trying to hide who I was, ashamed of my experiences, trying to sugarcoat my backstory,” Kelly writes. “It’s a relief to be free of the shame I carried for so long.”

And an important, affirming experience for her readers.

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