Mindy Kaling’s second memoir, Why Not Me?, came out in the fall of 2015, a few seasons into her show The Mindy Project. I loved reading this memoir and essay collection because Kaling knows that young women are looking up to her, and does her best to share her experience not just as a celebrity but also as a mentor, a role on which she also reflects in this interview with BJ Novak.
In Why Not Me?, the chapter “4 A.M. Worries” lists Kaling’s most pressing worries:
“10. I will never have a husband and all my female acquaintances will.
11. I will have a husband and he will be like my female acquaintances’ husbands.
12.What if I will never be one of the ‘greats’? What if I’m only one of the ‘fines’? […]
20.What if my kids are really young when I die because I waited too long to have them? […]
24. What if I have nothing to say?
25. Do I have too much to say and not enough time?” (213-214).
Indeed. Those are the worries we have if we are ambitious, young, relatively privileged women craving to develop influence and happiness. It means a lot that they are articulated by someone who’s here to say that we can be great and successful and fulfilled even with these worries.
The chapters “Unlikely Leading Lady” and “Why Not Me” encompass everything about Kaling that I love. Sharing the story of an interviewer that asked ridiculous questions about her eating habits, she concludes, “If I were your doctor or your congress woman or your sandwich artist, you wouldn’t be shocked to see me, and yet, because I’m an actress, a grown man was amazed that I put jam on my toast” (201). This is the kind of funny, strong, no-nonsense confidence we need to learn from Kaling: of course a woman of color is a perfectly normal member of Congress, of course you can eat and look like what ever is authentic to you and still be successful, and of course you can call out a rude man in public (however Kaling politely doesn’t mention his name or the publication he works for).
This book teaches the reader to feel entitled to great things, and then follow up by doing the work that indeed entitles them to success. It’s a reflection on women’s contradicting desires for careers and families and how one woman negotiates them (it’ll be fascinating if Kaling produces a third memoir once she is a mom). It’s warm, and heartfelt, and while sometimes oblivious to her privilege always aware that you have to make your own path.