Title: Why Not Me?
Author: Mindy Kaling
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Expectations for books are funny things. When you’ve read something by a author before, especially a memoir or essay collection, you think it’ll be in a similar vein. After all, you enjoyed the first one so much, you’re buying a second, right? You want to read things like the ones before–not exactly the same, of course, but maybe with the same tone or voice. In her second collection of personal essays, Why Not Me?, Kaling delivers that consistency, but adds something pretty important–feeling and heart.
It’s been awhile since I read her first book, but I remember it being more funny than anything else, which is not a bad thing. It was completely enjoyable, but I feel like this book had more guts to it. Kaling structured the book with broad topics and a few essays under each one. I could really sense the growth between the two books and how far she’s come as a writer, and maybe even as a person. There was less fear here, more of her owning up to herself and not holding back as much. Kaling is who she is, for better or worse, and has learned to accept that about herself. Maybe not love (because do we ever really love each part of ourselves?), but be able to be unashamed of who she is.
As someone who has really struggled with body image and the expectations placed on me as a woman to look certain ways, her essays on that were incredible. She knows she’ll never be a size 2, but being a size 10 isn’t bad. She even talks about looking at women larger than her and that gut instinct to judge them harshly because of their size. This is something that it’s almost like we’re conditioned to do. To pick out those “weaker” than us and use that to make ourselves feel better. I know I’ve done it before, and reading about someone else doing the same thing–knowing that it’s wrong and we need to change the way we think–was really cool.
She also talks about her relationship with BJ (her soup snake) and what dating is like for her now. The thing with the White House aide was both funny and had me nodding in agreement. That was interesting, seeing as she’s talking about dating and I’ve been married for over 10 years. I found myself relating to the idea of constantly playing tag with someone and not getting a change to sit down and just let a relationship happen. There have been times, especially since I’ve gone back to school, where my husband and I are passing ships in the night and suddenly a week has gone by and I’m trying to remember the last time we had more than five minutes together.
And, of course, she talks about work. We get a look inside what a day in the life of Mindy Kaling is like, from wake up until she goes to sleep. The work ethic she has is incredible and I have no doubt she’s been busting her ass like that for years to get, and stay, where she is. She talks about the making of The Mindy Project and how it came to be, as well as the recent change to Hulu. (Having watched the Season 4 premier, I am super excited about this season.)
Finally, she talks about that question of her confidence, in terms of a young, Indian-American girl asking her about it at a panel discussion. She points out the difference of this young girl versus a older, white man asking. This girl wasn’t implying Mindy didn’t deserve to be confident because of her body type, skin color, or gender. She was asking because she sees in Kaling something that she wants to be, that innate sense of self that makes women like Kaling these unstoppable forces. That, out of everything, was my favorite part and something I feel I’m going to go back and re-read whenever I need a reminder that I have to work my ass off and earn my own confidence.
The growth, maturity, and depth Kaling shows in this collection was really refreshing and incredible. It’s like watching your BFF really come into her own and be the kick-ass, amazing woman you know she can be. I finished this book wanting to just hang out with her, drinking and talking about everything under the sun. While it might not be perfect (that whole juice cleanse thing, for example), neither is she. When I first read the title, I was assuming it was similar to her first book, as in, why aren’t people hanging out with me? But as I read, I discovered it was so much more than that. There are people in the world every day following their dreams and doing what they want, so what’s holding me back? Why not me?
Rating: 5/5 stars