I know, I know. You all read Mindy Kaling's hilarious book like 100 years ago when it first came out and I am way behind the times. Don't care. I loved it so much that I'm writing it about now. Better late than never, right?
It was thanks to rather genius combination that is kids camp and a toddler who takes a long afternoon nap that I was able to finish this book in two days while on vacation. For a lot of that time I was laying on a beach chair next to my awesome future sister-in-law who was dutifully slugging through Anna Karenina. Let's just say I got several looks of death as I chuckled loudly at page after page of hilarious commentary on Kaling's childhood in the Boston suburb where I live and what it's like to be a young comedy writer in Hollywood while my noble sister-in-law was deep in the frozen fields of Russia. (BTW, I read Anna Karenina in high school and I agree it's an incredible work of fiction, but I think it's pretty clear who chose the better vacation read).
Kaling's funny, we all know that, but what I loved most about her book was that she struck this great balance between confidence and self-deprication. She knows she's smart and witty, and she owns those traits with great pride. But she's also clear about her faults and the realities of what it took to get where she is today. Her book is a fun read, but much like Tina Fey's Bossypants, it is also inspiring without trying to be. I particularly loved the chapter about how Kaling got her big break after writing and acting in a play she produced with her good friend. She entered the play in festival and did some serious grassroots marketing, which Kaling describes as the "environmentally destructive pestlike papering of the entire boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn." And it worked! She put her work out there, she marketed her butt off the best way she could, and it worked. You hear that, Star Sisters?
One last thing you have to know about Kaling is that she is so sweet in person. Yep, I've met her. Twice! Three summers ago I ran into her two separate times in the town where I live and both times she was so awesome to my daughter. I always wondered what she was doing in the area and it was with great sadness that I later learned that she was home caring for her mother who was dying from cancer. I clearly remember her telling my daughter that her mom was her best friend and the love she has for her family is a constant back beat in her book. Did anyone read this interview in Vulture that Mindy gave after the death of her mother? This section makes me cry every time:
“My relationship with my mom is really the single most profound relationship that I’ve ever had in my life,” she tells me. “By the way, it seems like I’m … I’m just blowing my nose. It’s not because I’m sad.” She has allergies and a cold, she promises. But her voice breaks when she starts talking about how she sat down with a pen and paper and asked her mother to give her all the advice she could possibly give her before she died, and Kaling realized she’d never be able to ask her mother for advice again. “I said to her, ‘Mom, I’m going to be so lonely without you.’” She’s crying now but keeps going. “And she just said, ‘You have to be your own best friend. If you always remember that, you will always have someone there with you."