Sunday, October 23, 2016 / No comments

Book Recommendation: Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson

Penguin Books

Book: Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame
Author: Mara Wilson
Genre: Nonfiction

Why You Should Read It (In My Humble Opinion): If you're like me (aka a millennial who remembers the mid to late 90's pretty well, and the early 90's not quite as clearly) then you remember Mara Wilson as Matilda, the incredibly smart and well read wunderkind, vastly unappreciated by her family, and has telekinetic powers. Not only did she play a beloved children's book character (and help bring Matilda to the mainstream and be an influence to millions of other misunderstood, smart girls), before that, she was in Mrs. Doubtfire with the late, great Robin Williams. I mean, come on!  Basically, she was the ultimate 90's cool kid and I was incredibly jealous of her back when I was an impressionable (and quite envious, apparently) young girl. If I could have switched places with her, I would have- in a snap, heartbeat, whatever sort of phrase there is to pull a Freaky Friday with the 90's cool girl (Mary-Kate and Ashley who?).

But who would have thought that the coolest little girl from the 90's would turn into such a badass writer? (And honestly, I still kind of want to be her) I rediscovered Mara Wilson on Twitter (formerly as @MaraWritesStuff, now just as @MaraWilson), where she literally dominates the Twitterverse with her smart, funny, and just damn clever tweets. And I was very happy to learn that she had written a book about her life growing up, from being a child star and beyond. Not only do I love frank, honest, yet heartfelt writing, but I also love a good life of a Hollywood actor behind the scenes look at the industry. But what I got was not what I was expecting, but so much better.

While Mara does talk a bit about her life on the Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda set, she mostly just mentions it in passing or as a brief anecdote, under the umbrella of a bigger subject (her first chapter all about sex is brilliantly funny, honest, and very relatable) but she does have a chapter devoted to the experience of filming Matilda and what a privilege it was to be a part of that iconic film. She makes the point that the experience of filming the movie was so personal to her (she and her family were big fans of Roald Dahl's classic children's book) and to her mother, who was going through chemotherapy during that time (and later passed away after the movie finished filming). Mara paints her mother in a very truthful, honest light. Just from the way Mara describes her, you could tell that her mother was charismatic woman, outgoing, almost brassy, but kind and thoughtful underneath her tough exterior. In her portrayal, Wilson's mother was real, wonderful, and flawed, and we are left with the feeling of sadness of never being able to meet this woman and have her in our lives. In this respect, Mara's homage was incredibly well done, real, and heart-wrenching.

Another thing I loved about Mara's book, apart from her honest views on quitting Hollywood and her incredibly moving piece on working with Robin Williams and the legacy he left in her, and our, heart(s), was her writing on her experiences with depression and OCD. As someone who has been diagnosed with both of those things, I almost breathe a sigh of relief whenever I see other people who have the same issues as me. As if to say, "oh good, it's not just me!" Not that I want others to suffer like I have, but it's nice to know that I'm not the only person who may have intrusive, upsetting thoughts, or an overwhelming fog clouding my vision and my desire to live and exist. Mara started having intrusive thoughts and compulsions when she was younger, and though she suffered for quite a while, after reading a young adult novel where the main character has OCD, she was finally able to identify those thoughts and feelings as OCD (and anxiety and depression. Those things just seem to go hand in hand, don't they?) and get the help she needed. Talk about inspiring!

Mara Wilson might always be known to some as just the little girl from Matilda (or, the little girl who perfectly portrayed Matilda, more like!), but to those who have followed her on Twitter, or read her new book (which I've obviously totally endorsing. Please go buy a copy. I'll wait. You're back? Excellent!), she is more than just a former child star. She's a storyteller; she frequently speaks in New York City (where she currently resides) about humorous and honest stories from her life (in the last chapter of Where Am I Now? Mara writes a very awkward and cringe-worthy story about her attempt to tell a story at a comedy club. While it did not go well, the night ended up turning around afterwards). She's also a writer (example: this book and other pieces for cracked.com), a playwright (her chapter on the inspiration for a certain play she wrote was hilariously inspiring), and basically just an all around cool, awesome person (that's my personal opinion about her!).

If you're looking for a book all about being a child star, I'd look elsewhere (even though she does mention her times in Hollywood, it's not the whole book). But if you're looking for a book that's honest, funny, and just plain old well-written (if her writing in this book is amazing, I can only imagine actually hearing her tell some of these stories during one of her storytelling events!) then this is your book. I can guarantee that after reading Where Am I Now? Mara Wilson will be your hero, but not for portraying Matilda, but for being an incredibly talented writer and genuine person (and also her stories about her first kisses. Not not first kiss, first kisses. As in plural. Just read it, it's great!). Here's hoping she keeps writing (which she plans to) and writing more material for us to consume, enjoy, and live vicariously (sometimes happily, and sometimes unhappily. But whichever way the story leans you feel for her) through. Go Mara go!

-Emily

PS. Sorry for the overuses of the words "talented," "honest," "funny," and all around just worshiping Mara Wilson when describing this book. I just really freaking loved this book and now I pretty much want Mara to be my best friend. Or just my girl crush at this point if she's not looking for a new best friend. It's okay, I'll just settle for her being my girl crush and just worshiping her from afar (aka favoriting/retweeting her tweets on Twitter and hoping that one day when I'm all grown up I can be as cool as her).

Where to Buy:
Amazon
Or, check out a copy from your local library!


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