Mindy Kaling has been visible for the last several years as a writer and actor on The Office. Honestly, I found her mildly amusing as Kelly Kapoor but was never as invested in her as some of the other characters. However, I have increasingly grown to love her new show, The Mindy Project, and recently decided to pick up her new memoir, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). It seemed like a nice change of pace from what I normally read.
That is not to say that I consider Kaling’s book fluff. Despite the mass-market title and the cute picture of Kaling in pink on the cover, all things that scream mindless chick-lit (which has its own specific place in our hearts and bookshelves), the book is much more in the vein of Tina Fey’s recent memoir, Bossypants. Fey broke through the memoir barrier, in a way, for other female comics by writing a hilarious, open, insightful, and, at times, brutally honest account of her life and her journey as a highly respected and successful writer and comedian in a predominately male world. Though Kaling’s book is not as deep, perhaps as Fey’s (and she even acknowledges that it is not nor is she trying to make it such), Kaling presents a similarly hilarious, honest, perhaps a bit less insightful account of her own personal journey to comedic success, tracing her childhood as the intelligent and driven, though not very popular, daughter of intelligent and successful immigrants from India through her college years, her first months in New York and ultimately her career as a writer and then actress.
What is charming about the book is that Kaling’s voice rings through so vibrantly. It reads as if you are having a great conversation with your bff, Mindy, over lunch at a trendy-but-not-too-trendy-because-that-would-be-weird-maybe-we-should-just-go-to-Cafe-Express kind of place. Kaling does not shy away from presenting herself warts and all, and the candid nature of her writing and photographs (all of which refreshingly seem to have come from the camera she keeps in her purse) breeds comfort and familiarity. Additionally, though Kaling skims the surface on some topics, her discussion of her childhood and school friendships was straightforward, funny, painful, and totally familiar. We would have been friends in middle and high school.
Sure, the book is not the deep, probing examination of the comedy world presented by Fey, but it’s certainly nice to spend an hour and half with a friend. And it’s also fun, if you are a fan of The Mindy Project, to recognize the real events and people that inspire favorite moments on the show. If you are looking for something light but intelligent, honest, and entertaining, I would definitely recommend Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns).