When Melissa Francis was eight years old, she won the role of a lifetime: playing Cassandra Cooper Ingalls on the world's most famous prime-time soap opera, Little House on the Prairie. Despite her age, Melissa was already a veteran actress, as was her older sister, and the two lived a charmed life moving from one Hollywood set to the next. But behind the scenes, her success was fueled by the pride, pressure and sometimes grinding cruelty of her stage mother. As Melissa's star rose, thanks to her mother's ambition, her sister's failure to win roles pushed her deeper into the shadows. As an adult, Melissa fought to choose her own path, and was forced to make difficult decisions when the extent of her mother's instability was finally made clear.
Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter is a fascinating glimpse into the life of a child star in the 1980s, but it is also a startling tale of a family under the care of a neurotic and competitive mother. But perhaps most importantly, it is a meditation on motherhood in an age when "Tiger Mothering" has reached critical mass. Melissa asks, how hard should you push a child to succeed, and at what point does your help turn into harm?