By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly
“Why Not Me?”
By Mindy Kaling
Crown Archetype, 2015
If Mindy Kaling’s first book was about how she got her start in comedy, her latest book, “Why Not Me?” is about what she’s been up to since.
In this collection of essays chronicling her adventures in show business and beyond, we see more of what it is like to work in an industry where almost nobody looks like you. Kaling, an Indian American who grew up in the Boston area, shares industry insider information, such as tips on how to look as “spectacular” as a starlet, as well as the ups and downs she went through with her show, “The Mindy Project.” She also shares experiences many of us can relate to, such as what it’s like to be dumped by a platonic friend and what it’s like to have a complicated relationship with an ex who is still a close friend.
One of the things I enjoy about Kaling’s book was how I could really hear her voice. Her writing style is very conversational, making readers feel like they’re just hanging out and talking with a friend.
Many times while reading the book, I found myself wishing Kaling and I were buds — though not best friends since she clearly states that she already has one (as do I, for that matter).
Kaling is not perfect and not afraid to share her flaws. She gives examples of when she has failed and how she overcame those perceived failures.
And while Kaling’s Indian heritage plays a significant role in her life and career, she makes it clear that there is more to her than her ethnicity. In doing this, Kaling asks readers the question posed in her book’s title. Why not her? Why can’t she be successful in her industry, even if she is not a white man or a stick-thin, white woman? And once readers begin to see that there is no reason for Kaling to be held back in her industry, they will start asking, why not me? Why not us?
“The Family Law”
By Benjamin Law
Black Inc., 2015
For some people, the idea of family brings up memories of happiness and joy. For others, the idea of family brings up less-than-positive memories. For Benjamin Law, it’s a mix of both.
As the third of five children, Law introduces readers to his eccentric and dysfunctional (but still functioning) Chinese Australian family — from his mother, who has no qualms of recounting the traumatic experiences she went through when giving birth to all of her children, to his workaholic father, who refuses to wear underwear made in China and gives his grown children red envelopes of cash on his own birthday.
Law also captures the kind of brutal honesty that can only come from your family members — from people who know you so well, who know which buttons to push, and who proceed to push them just for fun. His family is not perfect. His parents divorced when he was still young and the siblings didn’t always get along with each other.
But it’s clear in his writing that they love each other and that he loves them dearly. As much of a hard time they give each other, it is clear that they are there for each other and support each other, such as when Law comes out as gay. It turns out that his father was more disappointed to be the last in the family to know than about his son’s sexual orientation.
In addition to being a story about family, this is also a book about the immigrant experience, as Law shares how much of his extended family was deported from Australia back to China. It was interesting to read about an Asian family’s experience in a different Westernized part of the world.
Law also gave us a glimpse of what everyday life in Australia life is like, from surviving the school system to celebrating Christmas in 100-plus degree weather.
“Yes, My Accent Is Real: And Some Other Things I Haven’t Told You”
By Kunal Nayyar
Atria Books, 2015
As a young boy growing up in New Delhi, acting was never a career Kunal Nayyar considered pursuing. But then he travels to Portland, Ore. to go to college — to study business — and he auditions for a play in the mere hope of meeting and making new friends. This simple choice led Nayyar on a journey that takes him from theater performances in Oregon, Idaho, and Washington, D.C. to the role of Raj Koothrappali on CBS’s hit show, “The Big Bang Theory.”
Along this journey, we learn about other significant moments in Nayyar’s life, such as his first kiss, the years he dominated the local New Delhi badminton circuit, meeting his 6-foot-8-inch gentle giant of a roommate in college, working for his college’s housekeeping department, meeting and marrying his wife, and more.
Throughout the book, readers get to know the real man behind the lovable Indian American astrophysicist character who has trouble speaking with woman. We see the thought and research he puts into Raj’s selective mutism, which is a real condition. And while his character’s struggle is an ongoing joke on the show, one of my favorite moments in the book is when Nayyar shares words from parents who write to him, thanking him for being a “voice” for their children with the same condition.
In addition to the road he took to become an actor, Nayyar shares memories of what life in New Delhi was like. From his favorite Hindu holidays to the week that was his wedding, readers will have no doubt how much he loves his family and home country. His pride in being Indian shines through, reminding readers how important it is to remember where you come from and that being different is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s what might make you stand out and get noticed. (end)
Samantha Pak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.