Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson

(No Series)

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've always been interested in child stars who grow up and out of Hollywood, usually because they have issues finding further work when they get older. I've met Alex Vincent, the little boy Andy from Child's Play, several times over the years at a Florida convention. He has the same issue - he was not able to find work when he grew out of the cute phase, and ultimately moved on to other pursuits. Most of us have seen articles online titled, "Where are they now?"

Mara Wilson's memoir tells compelling stories, but the real reason for the five star rating is the poignant, raw honesty.

She spends a great deal of time talking about not wanting to be seen as merely cute but as a person playing a real role, not just a car·i·ca·ture ala Shirley Temple. She speaks of being offered roles too young for her when she hit preteen because that was how Hollywood showed her typecast, not feeling that she had that special older beauty to land teenager roles, and of course the dilemma of playing roles for children when you're growing breasts and starting to change over from that awkward middle school stage. This created some self esteem problems throughout life.

Beyond this, she discusses general real life issues that all children and people face, but throwing in the sideline of being a childhood star in Hollywood. Dating jerky guys breaking up with you in creative ways, her mother's death, her sister's bond, and her OCD. A huge portion of this book is about her OCD because it shaped her life so fully. I know what being obsessive compulsive means, but after this memoir I take to heart how deep the struggles are when it's severe.

The memoir was fascinating and touching. There's some stories of the movies of course, especially a chapter devoted to Matilda. Danny Devito and his wife come across truly sweet in this story. Her comments on Miracle on 34th St. and disappointments on how directors viewed children was eye-opening. One of the final chapters discusses Mrs. Doubtfire and Robin Williams, a chapter devoted to the joy of the man and all the hearts he touched. I realized when reading about him that I have now read three celebrity autobiographies that praise the actor: Christopher Reeve's "Still Me", where he was roommates with Robin in college and they stayed close friends; Fran Drescher's short story about him being apologetic over his excessive sweating during a lovemaking scene; and now this book, where the author said in life he was shy and had trouble meeting peoples eyes when he talked to them.

Besides being informative, these stories dish out nuggets of wisdom - mean girls who try to tear others down, dealing with a mother's death, behind the scenes Hollywood drama, awkward dates, trying to find yourself in therapy, and ultimately learning how to grow through severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Mara Wilson's writing style is colorful and easy - I read this one quickly. It was hard to put down and, even when dealing with the heavy stuff, a joy to read. Probably the most honest memoir I've had the pleasure of reading.

I received this from Penguin publishing in exchange for an honest review.

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