To be honest, I wasn’t wild about Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? when I first started it. I chalk it up to the stark contrast between Kaling and Junot Diaz and not having an intermediary read in between. My fault, really.
Finishing this book timed up perfectly with the beginning of the season for Kaling’s new show, The Mindy Project, and the press surrounding it. It helped me to appreciate her in a whole new way. (When I first read the title, I wondered, “How did she get in my head?”)
Kaling spends the first portion of her book talking a lot about being a geeky kid born of immigrant parents, falling in love with comedy, and being a chubby young adult. She’s simultaneously self-deprecating and overconfident with that quirky sense of humor most women of our generation strive to achieve. She’s got a distinctly feminine, yet raunchy, comedic voice that echoes throughout her entire book.
In addition to her childhood tales, Mindy Kaling has these awesome and short chapters full of lists, like “Best Friend Rights and Responsibilities,” which includes “I will take care of your kid if you die” and “I will hate and re-like people for you,” along with “Types of Women in Romantic Comedies,” such as the Klutz (“Despite being five foot nine and weighing 110 pounds, she is basically like a drunk buffalo”) and the Woman Who Works in an Art Gallery. She also talks about how she worked her way up to writing for The Office and how hard she worked to get there. She’s ambitious and full of guilty pleasures, and will tell you as much.
Despite her overall tone of awesomeness, it irks that she focuses so much on her appearance. I love that she is unapologetic about her (completely normal) body size. In fact, one of the best parts of the book is when she talks about going to a photo shoot where the photographer only brought sample-sized clothing for her, plus a single muumuu that was the only thing large enough to fit her. And by large enough, I mean a size 8. (Srsly.) Kaling talks about standing up to the photographer and making them cut a strip out of the back of one of the gowns and having them add canvas fabric so she could wear it. At the same time, all this focus on appearance and body size takes away from who she really is, which is this successful comedienne of color who writes, produces, and stars in her own TV show. That’s pretty impressive if you ask me.
Regardless, if I was a non-believer at the beginning, she won me over by the end. So if you liked her work on The Office, or are slowly developing an unnatural addiction to Fox Tuesdays, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a win-win.