In the past five years or so, a new sub-genre of the memoir and humor sections has sprung up: female TV comedy writers writing semi-autobiographical collections of essays. From Amy Sedaris to Chelsea Handler, just in the past year there’s been Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Hilary Winston’s My Boyfriend Wrote A Book About Me (which I still haven’t decided whether I liked or not), and, this month, Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). Some of these books are good, some are great, some are in the eye of the beholder. With certainty, I can say that, if you like this site, Kaling’s book is definitely in one of the first two categories for you.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a collection of mostly stand-alone stories, but presented in a roughly chronological order, it makes for a really intriguing memoir in its first half and the well-worn book of secrets and advice written by someone who really gets you in the second.
The first half (roughly) of the book introduces us to Mindy. From childhood to high school, college, Matt & Ben, and finally to The Office, Kaling gives us a pretty complete picture of how she got where she is and the family, friends, and colleagues that helped her along the way. Kaling has the perfect combination of knowing exactly who she is, being supremely confident in that, and yet being able to state her shortcomings without it seeming like she’s artificially creating flaws just to appear imperfect (*cough* The Annoying Deschanel Sister *cough*). And if we have any doubt as to what she’s like, she gives us a list of things that Kelly Kapoor would do that Mindy Kaling would and would not do.
The second half is more essay format, with topics ranging from things that have made Mindy cry, the difference between Men and Boys, why Mindy hates roasts, photos from Mindy’s Blackberry and revenge fantasies Mindy has while jogging. While they are grouped by categories (Romance and Guys, Mindy’s Appearance, Mindy’s Legacy), the essays are not directly connected to each other.
It’s kind of difficult for me to write reviews of something that I (spoiler alert) absolutely loved. If it gives you any indication, my iBook copy has six screens worth of bookmarks, highlights, and notes. Compare that to the above linked Bossypants review, which had one. There were so many points in the book that I went “Oh my god, YES!” or “That is such a good point!” or “That’s just plain funny.” And when that happens, I highlight. Or bookmark if it’s just the whole damn section. So yeah, six screens worth. Seven bookmarks and thirty-four highlights or notes. Most of those are in the first half, though. The one criticism I have of the book is that the lack of flow among the essays seems slightly jarring in contrast to the flow of the first half. It’s only really noticeable because the first half has such a nice flow to the narrative.
Overall, though, for anyone who didn’t peak in high school, who’s never looked quite like the people they watch on television, who’s put off work to discuss the merits of the Harry Potter universe, who asks their friends awkward questions”¦this book will speak to your soul. And, per Mindy, your aunt will probably buy it for you for Christmas in an attempt to reconnect with you. Buy it for yourself first, okay?
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite highlight from the last chapter, where Mindy infodumps some anticipated questions. Basically, this tells you everything I think readers of this site need to know about the book.
Why didn’t you talk about whether women are funny or not?
I just felt that by commenting on that in any real way, it would be tacit approval of it as a legitimate debate, which it isn’t. It would be the same as addressing the issue of “Should dogs and cats be able to care for our children? They’re in the house anyway.” I try not to make it a habit to seriously discuss non-sensical hot-button issues.
See also: F#!@ing Female Friendships, How Do They Work? by Kelsium (inspired by an excerpt from IEHOWM)