I've come to understand that memoirs/books of essays by comedians are basically extended stand-up sets in print. These are hard working, driven people that seem to feel obligated to publish books, even while writing and starring in their own shows and stuff like that. Kaling shares a typical day while she's shooting The Mindy Project. It starts around 5am and doesn't end until after midnight. And yet, somehow she (and others of her ilk, including Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman, Rachel Dratch, and Jessi Klein) thinks, you know what else I need to do? Write a book, even if doing so is going to be torture.
Like Poehler and (and maybe some of the others, too? I don't remember) Kaling even pads the book by getting a friend to write a few pages. And the friend sees his chapter as a stand-up set, too. I find the exercise of writing-to-write annoying, and like the authors are putting one over on us, but to be fair, they all write good stuff, even if a lot of it is the type of bullshit and English teacher recognizes but lets you get away with if you're generally a high-achieving smart kid.
Kaling's book reminds me more of Shonda Rhimes's memoir, really, than the other comics (other than the bs-ing your English teacherness). Like her fellow Dartmouth grad, Kaling has something to say to women of color about working in television. They are both high-achieving smart hardworkers with abundant talent, who take credit for their success, rather than running themselves down for comic effect, but still keeping things a little bit funny.
When you are entitled, you are the most insufferable person ever. If you are entitled and hardworking, which I am, you are still pretty insufferable, but at least you somewhat earned your entitled behavior. For all my other theoretical faults, no one can deny my powerful and driven work ethic, handed down to me from my immigrant parents and my suburban Boston peer group of kids who thought Cornell was a safety school.
I appreciate how she holds both truths in her hands at once, acknowledging her privilege, and owning how hard she works for it, that it is earned, but also grows out of the expectations of her tony background. But then, like Rhimes, Kaling eats up some pages with a graduation address she delivered, in Kaling's case at the Harvard Law School. She got in some zingers at least, like "You will defend BP from birds."
She has other thoughts on entitlement, like toward the end, when she feels obligated to give advice.
Confidence is just entitlement. Entitlement has gotten a bad rap because it's used almost exclusively for the useless children of the rich, reality TV stars, and Conrad Hilton Jr.
When she's serious, Kaling has moments that speak to some of my own sorrows, like when she recalls her friendship group disintegrating in her late 20s.
...this long expanse of free time to rekindle friendships is not real. We will never come home to each other again and we will never again have each other's undivided attention. That version of our friendship is over forever.
I'm glad for the life I have now, living with my partner, consumed by my job, and spending time alone when I have it, but I do miss those days of roommates and shared drama.
Best tidbit in the whole book, "you can wash your bras in a salad spinner." That's Kaling's takeaway from her brief foray into Greek life in college. Brilliant!
There's good stuff about gender, too, like in her treatment of a certain type of TV show, "Boy-Man Must Face the Adult World," basically about a worthless pothead with a Black roommate to give him authenticity, who becomes US Attorney General.
The thing that gave me the most to think about is Kaling's treatise on parenting and workaholism.
It's just that, the truth is, I have never, ever, ever met a highly confident and successful person who is not what a movie would call a "workaholic." We can't have it both ways, and children should know that.
Or you could not have children, which is my purposeful approach to dealing with my own driven nature. I think about it a lot, if there is a personality type that is more likely to be high achieving, and what you give up for your success. Unlike me, Kaling wants to share her life with children, and I hope she makes that happen before too long. She seems like she'd be a great parent, when she could find the time.