Review: Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson

Sunday, 20 November 2016
"Badasses are rampant in fiction, but they're not as rare in real life as one might believe. They know how to do everything, or at least are confident and knowledgeable enough to give people that impression. They don't worry about having to please everybody, because they make the right people happy without trying, and don't care about the rest. They are loved and feared. They exude confidence and bleed bon mots. They learn from their mistakes and take their shortcomings in stride. Even if they're short, they stand tall. Even if they aren't beautiful, they are sexy in their own way. It's impossible to surprise or shock them: they are ready for anything." — Mara Wilson, Where Am I Now?  
I was introduced to Mara Wilson as most children of the late 80s and early 90s were — her roles in Mrs. Doubtfire, Matilda, and Miracle on 34th Street. I was reintroduced to her a number of years ago when I stumbled upon her Twitter account where she has gained a reputation for fiercely funny one-liners. (See Buzzfeed's article 23 Times Mara Wilson Was The Comedy Queen Of Twitter.)

Wilson very quickly became one of my favourite feminist voices online, so when I heard she was publishing a book, it climbed to the top of my to-read list. Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame is partly a witty account of a child navigating the very adult world of show business; however, it's so much more. Through moving and insightful essays, Wilson explores growing up in a household of boys after her mother's death, puberty as a child actor, mental health, sexuality, and finding one's voice.

It won't come as a surprise, but my favourite part of Where Am I Now? happens when Wilson pens a letter to a fictional character I'm quite fond of — Matilda, who Wilson famously played in the 1996 film adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic. "Your book was my favourite," she writes. "There weren't many other girl characters I could look up to." The film premiered, gaining a cult following, around the same time Wilson lost her mother to cancer. The raw essay, simply titled "a letter", illuminates the ways in which Wilson was shaped by both her mother and Matilda.

You don't have to be a fan of Mara Wilson's filmography or follow her on Twitter to enjoy Where Am I Now? Wilson's universal struggles — love, loss, family, and friendship — make her immediately relatable (and likeable). Heartwarming and heartbreaking, Where Am I Know? might just be my favourite memoir of the year so far (and it's already November!).

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