BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without MeConfession: I’ve actually never seen The Mindy Project; I’ve never watched an episode of The Office (for which Kaling was a writer and star for some eight seasons). Yes, I live under a rock (surrounded by a lot of books). But I have ventured out enough to have seen Kaling in livetime twice: at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2002 in her two-person play, Matt & Ben, which she co-wrote and co-starred in with her best friend, Brenda Withers (and won Best Overall Production that year), and again at P.S. 122 when the play was remounted in a full-production, sold-out run in 2003. We’ve also stomped the same “granite of New Hampshire,” as we share an alma mater, albeit Kaling was still in diapers by the time I stepped on the Green.

In the fast lane glitterati life which Kaling currently navigates so accurately, her already-three-year-old memoir is on the verge of being outdated. So what took me so long? I promise I started turning the pages when the book hit shelves, but got distracted enough to lose my place. And then I stuck it in my ears this week, and finished it in less than a day. Her audible “Introduction” in which she “answers some questions” spoke directly to me – or, rather, directly pointed a finger at me: “Uhm, this book will take you two days to read. Even less because this is an audiobook and you just have to sit back and listen to it. Did you even see the cover? Can you see the cover as an audiobook? Okay, just take it from me. It’s mostly pink. If you’re listening to this every night for months, something’s not right.”

Uh-oh. And then Kaling explains how her book is not like Tina Fey’s book, because she “can’t be Tina” no matter how hard she’s tried. That turns out to be a good thing for me, because unlike millions and millions of appreciative readers, Tina Fey’s Bossypants on the page and stuck in the ears were both impossible to endure to the final page/track. Thankfully, four-and-a-half hours later, I’m still heartily chuckling with Kaling; of course, she narrates to perfection (you can see her expressions in her voice), with occasional interruptions by BJ Novak (she returns the favor on the audible version of his bestselling short story collection, One More Thing; Kaling’s book is much better), Mike Shur (who reads her faux eulogy!), and BFF Brenda Withers.

Here’s the thing about this memoir: You’ll probably find out more about Kaling’s biographical details in her Wikipedia entry – her birthname, how she got that birthname, her elite prep school, what she studied in college, her celluloid appearances and credits, etc. What you’ll find in Hanging is not so much ‘and this happened, and then that happened,’ but rather a pithy, resonating reduction of defining experiences: about being bullied by a Senegalese immigrant student in high school, about when it’s okay to call Mom or Dad, learning that a place called ‘Barneys’ is “fancy,” breaking her best friend’s nose on stage, and so much more. She moves breezily from childhood to NYC to Hollywood, from body size to dating boys vs. men to passing up cupcakes for donuts, from stylists to revenge fantasies to “Strict Instructions for My Funeral.” She tells her stories (and makes her lists) with such honesty, sometimes they hurt; she adds so much humor, sometimes they hurt and yet – most importantly – she somehow manages to use the humor to enhance, never to elide the seriousness of her more painful memories.

Since Hanging‘s debut, Kaling is still living between extremes: she lost her mother to pancreatic cancer (“I think my parents are perfect and so am I”) in 2012, and was named one of Time Magazine’s “100 most influential people in the world” in 2013 [Wiki tells all.] Given a few more years, surely a sequel will be forthcoming … until then, guess I’ll have to be satisfied with getting a glimpse of The Mindy Project at The Office.

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2011


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