Published on September 13th 2016
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For readers of Lena Dunham, Allie Brosh and Roxane Gay, this funny, poignant, daringly honest collection of personal essays introduces Mara Wilson—the former child actress best known for her starring roles in Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire—as a brilliant new chronicler of the experience that is growing up young and female.
Mara Wilson has always felt a little young and a little out of place: as the only child on a film set full of adults, the first daughter in a house full of boys, the sole clinically depressed member of the cheerleading squad, a valley girl in New York and a neurotic in California, and one of the few former child actors who has never been in jail or rehab. Tackling everything from how she first learned about sex on the set of Melrose Place, to losing her mother at a young age, to getting her first kiss (or was it kisses?) on a celebrity canoe trip, to not being “cute” enough to make it in Hollywood, these essays tell the story of one young woman’s journey from accidental fame to relative (but happy) obscurity. But they also illuminate a universal struggle: learning to accept yourself, and figuring out who you are and where you belong. Exquisitely crafted, revelatory, and full of the crack comic timing that has made Mara Wilson a sought-after live storyteller and Twitter star, Where Am I Now? introduces a witty, perceptive, and refreshingly candid new literary voice.
I don’t really review autobiographies or memoirs on this blog, it’s largely devoted to YA fiction, but these memoirs are written by the child actress who played, among other roles, beloved Matilda, Natalie in Mrs Doubtfire, and Susan from the remake of Miracle on 34th Street.
Her name is Mara Wilson and she has some things she wants you to know. Mostly that she’s a grown up now, someone who has sex and is old enough to drink alcohol legally.
A more than competent writer, Mara shares with us stories from her school life, including a horrible bullying incident that led her to transfer to a performing arts boarding school, some behind the scenes stories from her acting days, and how she struggled to keep acting once she outgrew being ‘cute’. Obviously she’s a beautiful, intelligent woman now, but once she grew boobs she just wanted to quit acting. Did she break up with Hollywood or did Hollywood dump her? It’s still a bit ambiguous in this book.
Mara’s honesty is refreshing. She’s still a celebrity, even if she’s not quite famous as an adult, and a lot of people look back fondly at her childhood work and remember her. She’s honest about how weird that is, like acting wasn’t particularly hard for her (even though she really was one in a million, and its obvious for me to say here she really was talented) and it’s a bit strange how everyone keeps telling her how awesome she was. She’s honest about how she feels about the industry now and her peers who have gone on to star in grown-up films like ScarJo and KStew. She’s even honest about finding her niche in New York City and how she’s been stretching her wings as a storyteller. But best of all, she’s honest about her OCD and anxiety diagnosis and how she learned to deal with mental illness.
I enjoyed this look at Mara’s life, though she doesn’t remember much from the parts I was really interested in because it all happened when she was so young. She gives the impression of being an intelligent, innocent, precocious child who enjoyed being a bit of a show off but felt guilty about it at the same time. She’s grown into a competent, wise storyteller. As autobiographies go, this is one of the better ones I’ve read.