Where Am I Now? 3.5 Stars
I enjoyed Where Am I Now? back in CBR8 and decided to revisit it this year as an audio-book. Mara Wilson narrates her memoir which threw me off because the Mara Wilson of 2016 does not sound like I imagined. It’s not like I was expecting her to still have her 1993 lisp but it was still jarring to my auditory system.
Most people have embarrassing videos of themselves as children. Few have theirs copyrighted by Twentieth Century Fox.
Wilson’s memoir is both an inside look at Hollywood and a regular memoir about growing up feeling a little bit different than your peers. Wilson lost her mother at a young age, she suffers from OCD & anxiety which she openly discusses and she went to a school whose social standing was based on your position within their cutthroat show choir hierarchy. She was also in several movies including Mrs Doubtfire, Matilda and Miracle on 34th Street.
While there isn’t a lot of scandal or scoop provided this is an enjoyable read for the memoir fan. Wilson is a talented writer and she seems like a well adjusted young woman despite her years in Hollywood. She has nothing but nice things to say about Robin Williams, Danny DeVito and several of the other actors she spent her childhood around. Hearing Danny DeVito showed a rough copy of Matilda to Mara’s mother on her deathbed so she could see her daughter’s hard work in the film adaptation of the book they both adored was incredibly touching.
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl- 3 Stars
Issa Rae has quickly rose up the Hollywood ranks thanks to her Emmy nominated work in HBO’s Insecure, which I’ve never seen but have heard great things about, but I did enjoy her essay in American Like Me. Her memoir, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, is full of hit or miss stories about growing up feeling out of place and well- a little awkward.
It all made sense: my shyness, all the times I was dismissed for not being “black enough,” my desire to reframe the images of black film and television, which I started to do when I created a series in college called Dorm Diaries, my inability to dance—these were all symptoms of my Awkward Blackness.
Jo-Issa Diop (she didn’t begin going by Issa until her twenties) is the daughter of a Senegalese father and an African American mother. Her early childhood was spent in Maryland where her Blackness and Africaness was considered unique but as a teenager her family moved to a primarily black neighborhood in Los Angeles where she was constantly accused of acting white. Many of her essays involve her trying to fit in with her classmates which usually involved over embellishing and flat out lying to her friends.
As a socially awkward child in the early Internet days Issa found herself more comfortable online where she essentially catfished guys she found in chat rooms to pass the time. As a college student she produced music videos online and a faux reality show web series before hitting it big with the YouTube series Awkward Black Girl. It was this ease on the internet that eventually translated into the successful career she has today.
I am finding that the “collection of essays” format of (primarily) celebrity memoirs drives me bonkers because the timelines bounce around and it is hard to keep track of the narrative. Both The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl and Where Am I Now are well written with a balance of humor and heart but they employ this infuriating format so I am subtracting a star from each of them.