Review of Why Not Me? by

Book cover for Why Not Me?

First off, an update on the shoe situation: I’m much faster at putting on shoes now. I’ve been training hard, lots of montages and such, and I’m proud to say I’ve seen great improvement.

Why Not Me? is the second autobiographical set of essays from Mindy Kaling. In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Kaling told us about her childhood and the path that led to her involvement with The Office. In this book, Kaling reflects more on her adult life, talks about developing her own TV show, and shares her opinions on being in the position of a somewhat recognizable celebrity.

Kaling’s humour once again suffuses her writing, with delightful sentences such as, “… a honeymoon is, after all, a sex vacation you’re giving yourself after a massive party in your honour”. But this book probably works so well because it neither glamourizes nor downplays the life of a Hollywood actor/writer. In one chapter, Kaling describes a typical day of working on the set of The Mindy Project, from waking at an ungodly hour to get to work, to going to bed at an ungodly hour after a long day of acting, writing, editing, and occasionally cake-eating. Replete with (often unflattering) pictures to illustrate the long process of early-morning makeup and late-night editing, this chapter reminds us that making TV shows is hard work for everyone involved. Typical coverage of celebrities tends to focus on the red carpet galas and extravagant premieres, but this over-emphasis on the glamour of acting in Hollywood detracts from the hard work it takes to actually make these entertainments.

On the flip side, though, Kaling is quick to acknowledge the disconnect between her experiences now versus her experiences a decade ago. She mentions hiring a “team of stylists” and then remarks on how weird it is to say that—but that it’s also incredibly useful. Kaling is careful not to minimize the impact that her increasing success has had on her life. Claims by celebrities that they are “just like us” tend to ring hollow. Firstly, it’s obvious that all celebrities are actually lizard people in human suits. Secondly, it doesn’t matter how famous a celebrity is: just living and existing in that particular sphere of social interaction necessitates a different lifestyle. Kaling remains down to earth, but she never claims to be “just like us” (doesn’t deny the lizard thing either, you notice).

In case it’s not obvious, I’m not necessarily Kaling’s target audience. She goes so far as to explicitly acknowledge this in her introduction. So take my three-star rating with that grain of salt. Nevertheless, there were a couple of passages that resonated with me, such as this one from her chapter on weddings and friendship:

Until I realized: this long expanse of free time to rekindle friendships is not real. We will never come home to each other again and we will never again have each other’s undivided attention. That version of our friendship is over forever.

Every once in a while, Kaling drops nuggets of hard truth in between her jokes. I shared the above realization with her as I have grown older. Many of my friends have moved away, or entered into long-term relationships, even had kids—and this is great and all, but it is a big change. Particularly as someone who doesn’t enjoy “going out” and prefers to have one or two close friends over just to hang out, it’s a change that requires a lot of adjustment.

I also enjoyed this observation about differences between women’s and men’s magazines:

I laugh thinking about if they ever tried to do “Who Wore It Best?” for men’s magazines. They wouldn’t, because no one would care. Men don’t care which men looked better in the same clothes because it’s so obviously a huge waste of time. It’s also why they don’t have astrology sections in men’s magazines.

Zing! But a zing with a heavy dose of truth about different expectations of genders.

And so this is why, even if I’m not the target audience and not, in fact, a huge fan of Kaling herself, I still enjoyed Why Not Me?. It’s modest but honest, and rather than serving up chapter after chapter of fluff, Kaling sticks in real, thoughtful, often feminist observations about our society. This is a book that can check off both the “easy read” and “meaningful read” boxes on the reading checklist I know you keep beside your bed.

Engagement

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