Books

'Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?' Mindy Kaling Gets Real

After reading this book, everyone will want to hang out with Mindy Kaling.


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

Publisher: Crown Archetype
Length: 222 pages
Author: Mindy Kaling
Price: $25.00
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2011-11
Amazon

Mindy Kaling may be best known for playing Kelly Kapoor on The Office -- a character who, Kaling will have you know, bears only a slight likeness to her true self -- but, of course, that's just one of her many roles. The likable comedian is also a television writer, prolific Tweeter, apparent shopaholic, and newly minted author of a brilliantly titled book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). It might seem that at just 32 years old, Kaling is a little young to be penning an autobiographical collection of essays. But then, it's her relative youth that makes her so relatable to the Internet generation, you know? She's an Ivy League grad and a Hollywood success, yes, but in her book (and online), she's just one of the girls.

If there's one thing that stands out about Kaling in her book, it's that she really is incredibly relatable. The book jacket describes her as "just a Girl Next Door -- not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka." Seriously, though, she's a Girl Next Door for a new era. Just look at the title. Who hasn't ever wondered, in a moment of insecurity, if everyone is hanging out without them? It's the stuff of Facebook jealousy and AT&T Taco Party commercials. Lots of us have been there.


Her tale shares some of the relatable, comically mundane qualities of The Office, but without the cubicle-gray bleakness of the mockumentary. Instead, the story is pink, fresh, lively, and distinctly female -- but it isn't driven by sexual politics.

Since comparisons to Tina Fey's Bossypants are inevitable (Kaling even acknowledges this in her introduction), let's get that business out of the way quickly: Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling have lots in common biographically, to be sure. But while Fey's book has a sense of whimsy and weirdness about it, along with plenty of feminist musings, Kaling's essays are rooted in comparatively ordinary experiences -- being teased for her weight as a teen, spending Friday nights at the Cheesecake Factory with her clique, and realizing she actually has more in common with a tomboyish comedy geek then her girly confidants. Again: it's pretty textbook coming-of-age stuff.

The daughter of an architect and doctor, Kaling grew up a self-proclaimed "chubby" kid in a strict but loving family in Massachusetts. In another book, demanding parents with an overweight, arts-oriented child might've made for a salacious plot; by Kaling's account, though, her mom and dad were hard-working, clear-eyed mentors who supported her success -- not tiger parents in the least. They emphasized academic achievement, sure, but Kaling mostly recalls the fun she had with her family, which is refreshing and notable for a memoir. There aren't any juicy confessions or accusations here; just amusing stories from Kaling's perspective.

That's not to say that she shies away from hot-button topics. Kaling talks about weight, race, and Hollywood’s obsession with conventional beauty in an unselfconscious, tongue-in-cheek way. But by her account, there aren't any personal skeletons in her closet. (Besides, how would they fit? It's probably too stuffed with Anthropologie sale items.)

After high school, Kaling attended Dartmouth College (to "pursue [her] love of white people and North Face parkas," she jokes), where she made some great friends and developed skills as a writer and performer. She then moved to New York City with two best friends after Dartmouth, rented a tiny Brooklyn apartment, and looked for a job -- without much luck.

And that story has become increasingly familiar to college graduates, I'm sure. Like many 20-somethings today, Kaling succeeded winningly in school, only to find that the real world didn't have much professional use for her. In New York, she was adrift for a while before gaining underemployment as a babysitter (where, like most babysitters, she enjoyed freeloading on chicken nuggets, bagel bites, and other kid-friendly junk food). She then found an underpaying job that at least offered health insurance, much to her mother's relief. And finally, she did what more and more underemployed college grads are doing today: She made her own gig.

In order to fulfill creative potential, Kaling and her best friend, Brenda, wrote themselves breakthrough roles in a fringe theater play called Matt and Ben, in which they portrayed fictional versions of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The show won accolades, collected glowing reviews, and caught the attention of industry professionals, and from there, Kaling's life began to change. But her success might not have happened if she hadn't initiated it.

Amid the autobiographical details, the book also has heaps of funny, insightful essays on Hollywood, guys, dating, fashion, and beauty. Standouts include "Types of Women in Romantic Comedies Who Are Not Real", in which she unpacks familiar characters like the manic pixie dream girl (whom she dubs "the ethereal weirdo") and the likeable but flawed female lead ("the klutz"); "Guys Need to Do Almost Nothing to Be Great", which every man between the ages of 25 and 40 should read; "Men and Boys", which every male should read; and "Don't Peak in High School", which should be required reading in high schools across America.

And, of course, there are moments throughout the book when Kaling recalls feeling excluded: in high school, in the early days of The Office, and as a guest writer for Saturday Night Live. They're fleeting moments within funny, charming anecdotes, but they're relatable and real, and they make the writer even easier to like. If everyone was hanging out without Kaling before, her new book, I’m sure, has changed that.

7


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.

Books

John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.

Music

Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.

Music

Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Books

Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.

Music

Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.

Film

Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.

Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Music

John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.