I love food, but I can’t afford expensive restaurants. I love to travel, but you don’t see me flying first class. I love to read, but I never buy brand new over-priced books. One of my only exceptions is actress, comedian, and writer Mindy Kaling.
“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you feel like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”
-Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye
I admire Kaling because, yes, she is a celebrity, but she is not a world-wide, household name: “I am by no means famous famous, like Rihanna or a Kardashian or Nicki Minaj’s butt. Those are people who have to wear makeup when they exercise, which is a whole other tier of fame.”
She is down-to-Earth and incredibly relatable on so many levels: “The single best outcome of my (minor) fame is that women — usually young women who feel marginalized for some reason-come up to me, or write to me, to tell me I make them feel more ‘normal.’”
That’s why after reading her first memoir, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) released in 2011, I was counting down the days until her second book would be released in September 2015.
Kaling was, like most celebrities, a struggling artist for most of her early years living in New York before she got her big break. Moving to LA when she was offered a writing job on a new Greg Daniels project was what launched the career we didn’t know we were waiting for.
The Office television series.
Although Mindy was a behind-the-scenes executive producer, writer and director, she also played on-screen-role, Kelly Kapoor. When The Office wrapped up in 2013, she had enough klout to venture onto other projects with less fear of having to live paycheck to paycheck.
She created and stars in a sitcom, The Mindy Project, which is now supported by Hulu after running on the Fox network for two years. Her show is original, funny, and fresh. It’s also insanely realistic and relatable, just like Mindy.
“My favorite shows have a flawed and ridiculous lead who is steering the comedy of the show, making big mistakes and then struggling to fix them.”
Mindy Kaling is definitely what I would call a “Girl Boss”: a hip new term I am in full support of these days.
So when Amazon delivered my pre-ordered copy of Why Not Me? I was delighted to crack open the pastel hardcover and was greeted by cheeseburgers on the inside cover.
Like her predecessor, Why Not Me? contains essays and commentary on different aspects of her life, people she’s met, her opinion on social issues, pop culture and advice on handling awkward situations both in serious or comical manners.
“In the words of both Mariah Carey and Taylor Swift, I knew I could shake it off. How could it not be true if both songs have the same name?”
Her first memoir focused more on her childhood, struggles of growing up, college, and her journey to LA. This second memoir picks up where the first left off and comes off now as a more “seasoned” book with insights and stories from the top vs. the bottom. However, it is clear in both books regardless of fame, Kaling doesn’t lose her individuality, style, confidence, passion, dedication, or her love for McDonald’s.
Clearly I think very highly of Kaling and love her writing. I could easily write a solid review on almost every chapter of this book — but that defeats the purpose of you reading it for yourself. That being said, while devouring these pages, I flagged some sections which I think are good examples of how Kaling is a great role model for positive body image, staying true to yourself and becoming your own person:
“I want to always be as body-positive as girls hope that I am. […] My deep dark secret is that I absolutely do try to conform to normal standards of beauty. I am just not remotely successful at it.”
Kaling is an average size woman. She is 5’4 and wears a drop-dead fashionable size 10. And she is not above admitting she falls victim to unrealistic standards just like the rest of us.
“Though I am generally a happy person who feels comfortable in my skin, I do beat myself up because I am influenced by a societal pressure to be thin. […] even though I wish I could be thin, and that I could have the ease of lifestyle that I associate with being thin, I don’t wish for it with all of my heart. Because my heart is reserved for way more important things.”
Kaling may not be George Clooney or Angelina Jolie-famous, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. She can credit her lower level of fame to knowing the pain and struggle of having to work really hard for something.
“Confidence is just entitlement. […] Entitlement is simply the belief that you deserve something. Which is great. The hard part is, you’d better make sure you deserve it.”
Since she is famous, though, she takes on that extra responsibility of people criticizing her every move, or people taking every word that comes out of her mouth as God’s truth.
“I do idiotic things all the time and I say crazy stuff I regret, but I don’t let everything traumatize me. And the scary thing I have noticed is that some people really feel uncomfortable around women who don’t hate themselves. So that’s why you need to be a little bit brave. […] People get scared when you try and do something, especially when it looks like you’re succeeding. People don’t get scared when you’re failing.”
Bravery is a huge point in the final pages of this book, with advice and incidences that when you close the book, it makes you just want to climb every mountain. Kaling is a great role model for girls and young women with her actions and positive affirmation. But she also tackles the flaws and loopholes that our society doesn’t address.
“A general assumption about confidence is that women, particularly young women, will have very little of it, and girls will have zero of it. […] Well guess what, young girls. You aren’t damsels in distress. You aren’t hostages to the world of your peers. […] I get worried that telling girls how difficult it is to be confident implies a tacit expectation that girls won’t be able to do it.”
Kaling closes her book with some long-overdue-advice for a shy girl who approached the microphone at a Q&A asking where Kaling got her confidence. Being jet-lagged, hungry, and caught off guard by the question when it was originally asked, Kaling uses this memoir as a platform to “write” that wrong and give that girl the true answer she deserved.
“Work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled. Listen to no one except the two smartest and kindest adults you know, and that doesn’t always mean your parents. If you do that, you will be fine.”
It’s officially fall now, so cuddle up in a blanket with a hot cup of tea in your leggings and oversized sweatshirt. Be basic. Be brave. Be a bookworm this fall with Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling.
Other memoirs and letters I would recommend include:
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) – Mindy Kaling
I love You, Ronnie: The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan – Nancy Reagan
Yes Please – Amy Poehler
What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self – Ellyn Spragins