If my childhood, teens, and twenties were about wanting people to like me, now I want people to know me. So, this is a start.
-Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me?
Why Not Me? is Mindy Kaling’s second book of personal essays [the first being Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), which I have yet to read]. After trudging through slews of novels by Dead, Serious, and Canonical White Guys throughout my university education, it was refreshing and exhilirating to dip into the pages of Kaling’s contemporary life as a writer and actress–one that does not always align with the standards of beauty and behavior that police the existences of women in Hollywood.
What makes WNM such a thoroughly enjoyable and valuable read is Kaling’s voice and attitude: she is simultaneously frank about her (very human) insecurities and faults and unapologetic about her confidence and overall fabulousness. Her language is colorful and sharp, colloquial but eloquent, sprinkled with perfectly selected pop culture allusions. A professional comedian, she cranks out sidesplitting jokes, while, at the same time, articulating poignant, honest musings about experiences/feelings that readers will undoubtedly relate to. There was one particular reflection in “Some Thoughts on Weddings” that resonated with me:
With my friends, the sad truth is that our best “best friend” days are behind us. […] It’s traumatizing to think that a best friend could become just a friend. That’s because there is virtually no difference between an acquaintance and a friend. But the gulf between a friend and a best friend is enormous and profound.
-Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me?
I think that it’s easy to forget that celebrities have personal lives that are structured very much like our own, with familial and platonic support systems. Kaling doesn’t upkeep that misconception by lingering too long in the seemingly glamorous aspects of her career. Instead, she breaks it down for us, as in essays like “A Day in the Life of Mindy Kaling,” detailing what kind of work went/goes into building and sustaining that kind of life. Yes, she assures us, having your own TV show actually requires a lot of hard work. Sure, there are some perks, like becoming buddies with the President of the United States and being BFFs with cool people like B.J. Novak, but underneath all of that fluff are long hours of writing and editing scripts and meeting with scarily important network executives who may or may not shut down your projects any minute.
Kaling, who is especially open about her desire to please people, focuses a great deal on her personal relationships, as well as the personal side of her professional relationships. She doesn’t hesitate to tell us about celebrity-friendships-gone-wrong and crushes that fizzled into could-have-beens. She confesses to taking immense pleasure in filming sex scenes. And she paints idiosyncratic portraits of the most influential mentors that have shaped her career. She humanizes the experience of working in a business that relies so heavily on illusion and facade.
Why Not Me? was the most fun and pleasurable reading experience that I’ve had in a long time. It was straightforward and easy to read (refreshing after taking courses on Chaucer and Shakespeare), but, at the same time, it was thought-provoking and intelligent. I didn’t have to exercise too much intellectual brainpower to feel connected to it, either; I just connected. Mindy Kaling proves with WNM the power of a book that inspires effortless emotional connection and balanced mental engagement.
If you’re looking for a book to enjoy this week, I’d definitely check this one out!