Category Archives: Memoirs

Book Review: Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

I read Why Not Me? as part of my last ditch (and probably doomed) effort to catch up on my 2015 Goodreads challenge and finished it in just a few hours. Like Mindy Kaling’s first book, this one is a fast, enjoyable read with a moderate amount of insight into all kinds of things that Mindy Kaling is interested in. Also like Mindy Kaling’s first book, this one makes me want to be best friends with her, because she seems to be utterly delightful.

I say that, of course, with the full understanding that Mindy Kaling is obviously not going to be delightful to everyone. In fact, she’s clearly a little self-absorbed, a little out of touch, super smart, somewhat nerdy, and not above being occasionally awful. Basically, Mindy Kaling seems like a real human being, albeit far more successful most of the rest of us.

What I love best about Mindy Kaling, though, is that her real human being-ness never feels like a schtick or an act or a ploy to make us like her. Sure, she’s endearingly self-deprecating, but always about actual flaws. She kind of weirdly humblebrags about her McDonald’s addiction, but I suspect that she really does eat too much McDonald’s, and I can relate to that because I, too, eat too much McDonald’s. Her story about dragging B.J. Novak to a play against his will sounds exactly like the sort of thing a real person might do. So, also, does her story about the time she gave a teenage girl a kind of bullshit answer to a serious and worth-answering question.

The advice that Kaling offers at the end of her book is thoughtful, but not too obnoxiously wise. Her thoughts on her work and career are amusing and sharply observed, but delivered without rancor. There’s definitely a little bit more of “work hard and good things will come to you” advice, but it’s not offered without at least a basic awareness of the role played by luck and privilege.

Why Not Me? is not a great work of literature, but Kaling is a clever and funny essayist who isn’t weighed down by pretension. I enjoyed Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) but this follow-up book is altogether better and showcases a Kaling who is more confident, more assertive, and even more readable than she was before.

Book Review: Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew

Mulgrew_Born With Teeth
Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew

Over the last couple of years, I’ve found myself developing a real fondness for memoirs, so when I found out that Kate Mulgrew, who I’ve admired since the first time I saw her enter the bridge on Star Trek: Voyager, was publishing one, I was thrilled. Born With Teeth is not a book about Star Trek, so fans of the series hoping for that may be disappointed, but Kate Mulgrew has lived a full and interesting life and has a lot to say about art, love, and finding happiness by being true to one’s self.

From the first pages of this book, as she writes about growing up as a precocious and much-loved child in Iowa, it’s very clear that Kate Mulgrew is not cut out to be a conventional woman. Leaving home for New York, she pursues her career as an actress with a deep and abiding passion for her craft that sustains her over the decades of her life.

Early on, we learn that Mulgrew gave birth early in her career to a daughter who she gave up for adoption, and Mulgrew’s regret over this decision and her desire to be reunited with the child she lost figures nearly as largely in the story as her passion for acting. Mulgrew’s feelings about the adoption consume many pages, and even as she later marries and has two more children by her first husband, she never stops wanting to know her daughter.

I finished this book in just one day, I found it so riveting. Kate Mulgrew is a passionate, intelligent, driven woman who isn’t afraid to talk about her mistakes. She’s also wry and funny, but never cynical, even about her often disappointing relationships with men. Mulgrew’s love for her children and her attempts to stay true to herself while also doing right by them are relatable and compelling.

Born With Teeth is an excellent, fast read about a woman who struggles with balancing her personal and professional lives. The book is light on practical advice, but I think it’s a wonderful story to show that a life doesn’t have to be objectively perfect in order to be rich and fulfilling.  I think one takeaway here is that mistakes shouldn’t define one’s life and that it’s never too late to make positive changes. The other takeaway is that it’s okay to not compromise when happiness is on the line, which is an excellent message, especially for young, creative women, to whom I would most recommend this book.