The monthly subscription service for beauty products, Birchbox, partnered with Mindy Kaling on their August box as well as a social media campaign that concluded with a live twitter chat with Kaling. As part of this campaign, Birchbox sent out several copies of Mindy Kaling’s bestseller Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) to members of their Birchblogger network to review. I was one of the bloggers who received a copy, and the following is my take:
Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a fast-paced and pithy showcase of Mindy’s comedic talent, and the balance of frivolity with depth Kaling carefully curates showcases her craft. Reading more like an anthology of humorous anecdotes and hip-yet-provocative editorials than a chronological autobiography, Kaling’s book is always trendy and occasionally poignant. Furthermore, despite protestations to the contrary, Kaling subtly calls out sexism through critiques of the comparisons of female comedians, as well as through personal anecdotes about industry beauty standards. One example used is when she learned other actresses would be auditioning to play her in an unsuccessful television pilot, “[…] I could convincingly play Ben Affleck but not Mindy Kaling”.
Kaling’s writing is hilarious, and if familiar with her work on The Office and The Mindy Project it is impossible to read the book without hearing the cadence of Kaling’s own voice. (Rumor has it she narrated the official book on tape, and if the online customer reviews are to be trusted four out of five say it’s amazing). Scattered between anecdotes of growing up as, “a child who wore cardigans”, and strong opinions on the importance of male chest hair, fans of Kaling’s work will also be excited to get a quick peek behind the curtain in the writer’s room of The Office and Saturday Night Live (one of which turned out better for Kaling than the other).
Despite the frequent and blasé name-dropping of Kaling’s contemporaries such as Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Steve Carrell, B.J. Novak and her “frenemy” Rainn Wilson, Kaling comes across as instantly relatable. Kaling shares many of her personal struggles with weight, body image, rejection, hot-headedness, and romance—not to mention romantic comedies—in a way that is genuine and normalizing. Oh yeah, and truly funny.
It is interesting to note that Kaling thanks B.J. Novak in her acknowledgments for his feedback, including his recommendation that she work on not “sounding racist” in her book. While the thank you is humorous, there are a few moments in the book where jokes about race flirt with the border between provocative and tasteless. However, there are many more that land flawlessly.
From the first page Kaling is endearing, and comes across as someone who would make a really great best friend. Not a seminal read by any means, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a fast, effective compilation of the inner musings of Mindy Kaling. The book is entertaining for everyone, and a treat for her fans. Kaling shines through her unique mixture of drama, genuineness, and comedic timing, easily winning the hearts of her readers. After all, there is something delightfully charming in her willingness to confidently state, “I’m kind of a mess”.
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