Mindy Kaling the human being is not the same person as Mindy Lahiri the television character (portrayed by Kaling on The Mindy Project), no matter how many people want to believe so. Lahiri is shallow (in a relatable way), outrageous, and in Kaling’s own words, “delusionally confident.” Kaling may share some similarities with her fictional alter ego, but she’s also hilarious, smart, and interesting in her own right. Like Lahiri, Kaling is someone you want to get to know.
In her second book, Why Not Me?, Kaling attempts to leave behind the exhaustion of wanting people to like her, and instead opts for giving readers the chance to get to know her in 240 pages. More personal than her first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Why Not Me? features a collection of sharp, insightful essays guaranteed to make you laugh in a way that will earn you weird looks on the subway.
Kaling’s distinctive and engaging voice shines strongly throughout the book. With essays ranging from “Mindy Kaling, Sorority Girl,” to “4 a.m. Worries,” she brings depth and meaning to seemingly mindless topics. Standout essays include “Some Thoughts on Weddings,” an incredible examination of female friendship in adulthood; “Soup Snakes,” a candid look at her “weird as hell” relationship with comedian, writer, actor, B.J. Novak; and “ Unlikely Leading Lady,” which is a scathing assessment of the world’s fascination with her “real” and “normal” beauty standards. Each essay in the book manages to be silly and thought-provoking in unexpected ways.
Authentic and honest, Kaling’s brand of humour perfectly embodies today’s zeitgeist. Unsurprisingly, Kaling is extremely relatable, following the old adage, “I don’t know if I want to be friends with her, or if I want to be her!” She’s ridiculous, but in a smart way; unabashed, but in an rousing way. Kaling is unafraid to truly speak her mind, likely saying something many of us have thought but couldn’t be vulnerable enough to vocalize. She doesn’t appear to put on a persona, but readily embraces who she is.
What’s most striking, however, about Kaling’s book is how often it evokes thoughts and memories of friendship. If you’ve been lucky enough to have had great friends, you will see them throughout the pages of this book, like when Kaling jokes about how her TV character would make a private Twitter account to follow the happenings of One Direction, or emphasizes that all she really wants from a romantic partner is a guy willing to watch serialized dramas with a female protagonist on Netflix. Kaling’s writing works best when these genuine moments occur.
Why Not Me? is Mindy Kaling at her best: funny, moving, and with at least two sections that could easily be turned into standalone romantic comedies. Those familiar with her work will delight in this witty read. But even those who are not should find comfort in the bravery of someone willing to just be herself.
Featured image by Patricia Karounos