Book/Author and Year Published: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) By Mindy Kaling (2011)
Reviewer: Jeriann and Bethany
Age/Genre: Comedic Memoir
Preferred Reading Environment: The mall, surrounded by teenagers.
Reading Accoutrements: Eat your Sbarro pizza with a large soda and a healthy dose of pride!
Content Notes: Body Image Talk, Gender Stereotypes, Racial Stereotypes
Okay readers, before we get started on this review, one small caveat: We have not watched…any…of Mindy Kaling’s TV comedy. (Bethany has seen No Strings Attached, and Kaling’s character was the only one she actually liked in that movie.) We did know that the commercials for her self-titled TV series, The Mindy Project, were funny, but unfortunately neither of us spend much of our scarce free time watching comedy.
Jeriann: You may ask, “If you’re not fans of Mindy Kaling’s shows, why are you reviewing her book?” and the answer is that it just sort of happened. I picked this up at a thrift store because I have a lot of friends who like Mindy Kaling, and I figure I’d give her a shot.
Bethany: I saw this book on sale on Kindle and bought it because the blurb appealed to me. When Jeriann mentioned that she already had the book, we decided that we’d review it together.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) is a collection of stories and essays about Mindy Kaling’s life, with a few comedic lists thrown in for good measure.
Jeriann: I’d probably call this “50% memoir, 50% articles Kaling would publish on BuzzFeed if she wasn’t too good for them.”
Bethany: I thought that this book read like a stand-up comedy routine (or maybe a series of sketches yet to be developed into a routine). I found myself picturing Mindy on-stage as she delivered her witty soliloquy.
Jeriann: Honestly, when I started this collection, I was disappointed. The intro read really “off” to me, and I didn’t think the jokes in it were funny. But luckily, I enjoyed the rest of the writing more. Bethany brought up a great point that the intro seemed like something the publisher forced Kaling to write, and I agree. We would have been much better served by a forward by another comedian.
Bethany: Other than the intro, the stories held up surprisingly well considering it was published eight years ago – in a much different social and political climate…in other news, I feel old…
Kaling starts off with a couple of stories about her childhood, and then spends a large portion of the book relaying her experiences as an aspiring writer and entertainer. As former theatre kids, her stage stories triggered some nostalgia, and even though neither of us live in tiny apartments in New York, we can relate to the starving artist bit at least a little.
Bethany: My favorite story was about her frustration with a photo shoot wardrobe. Kaling was voted onto People Magazine’s 2011 Most Beautiful List and, of course, had a photoshoot for the accompanying magazine issue. Despite the photo shoot being specifically for her, the stylist did not bring any dresses that fit Kaling – except for one hideous navy dress that she hated. The stylist was really snooty, but I loved how Kaling stood up for herself and made them destroy a pretty dress to fit her. And she looked great in the pictures!
Jeriann: There were a couple pieces I wasn’t a big fan of, and most of them centered around men. In “Guys Need to Do Almost Nothing to Be Great,” Kaling outlines a list of very basic tasks men need to accomplish to look put together and be seen as acceptable. The type of man she ended up describing was so… specific, and only applied to a narrow perception of how men are supposed to present themselves. She wasn’t saying men “had” to do these things, but I did feel like her comments were only applicable to men of a certain amount of wealth and privilege. Then, in “Men and Boys,” she labels immature men without their lives together as boys, while stating that she’d much rather date men, even though they can be jerks, too. I hate this idea that adults who don’t meet certain standards are children. It’s judgmental at some points, and at others almost serves as an excuse for them not to improve. I thought the whole framing was so unconstructive. This essay basically reaffirmed my beliefs about how pop culture perpetuates harmful ideas limiting masculinity.
Bethany: I did cringe when she talked about the married people that she interacted with. Her point in “Married People Need to Step it Up,” is that she mostly hears about the shitty parts of marriage; she wants to hear more about the married couples who are cute and cuddly – even five years after the wedding. While I understand her point, it is pretty toxic to say that married people have to be sunshine and roses every day just to save the (statistically failing) institution of marriage. What I’m saying is, I think married people should be able to bitch to their (single or married) friends about the less-than-sunny points of marriage.
Jeriann: Part of my problem with the intro was that Kaling talks about how her publishers had pegged a large part of her audience as teenage girls, and I wasn’t impressed with what the intro offered that audience. As a whole though, I think that Kaling offers some great life tips, such as “Don’t Peak in High School.” She illustrates how friendships in her life came and went in a pretty down-to-earth healthy way that I think teenagers will benefit from. And she shows her early career struggles with self-awareness, which was a refreshing take. There were parts of this book that I felt perpetuated less-than-great societal views, but there was also a healthy dose of realism and (dare I say it?) sage advice.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a fun, light read with some interesting insights into the life and career of Mindy Kaling. It didn’t motivate us to immediately binge her TV shows, but we’re not opposed to the idea of reading her latest memoir at some point.
Have you ever read the memoirs of a celebrity you hadn’t seen a lot of? How did it go?