Mindy Kaling “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)”

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I’ve recently finished Mindy Kaling’s book, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?”. This not-so-typical autobiography actually embodies collections of random thoughts that come to Mindy’s mind and chooses to tell. As you read the book, you could definitely hear Mindy’s voice inside your head.

In the book, she does describe her passion and journey in developing her career in becoming a comedy writer/actress from filming short comedy skits with her high school best friend to co-writing a 2-woman act play with her roommate of entitled “Matt and Ben” and eventually becoming a writer for NBC’s “the Office”.  In addition, Mindy talks about her challenges with her weight and beauty throughout her life. For example, during her childhood, she recalls being made fun of being the fat kid by the school bully. Then later when she becomes a cast member of the Office, she faces another challenge of not being able to fit into a designer dress for People’s Most Beautiful magazine photo shoot.

My favorite part of the book is her sweet and star-struck moment with Amy Poehler. During one summer, Mindy had a one-time stint writing for SNL during the summer break of the Office. Although Mindy’s actual skit did not make the SNL line-up, she got to meet the infamous Amy Poehler. Mindy first thought Amy wanted to see Kristen Wiig since Mindy shared a small office with her. But Amy said she wanted to talk to Mindy and asked if Mindy was going to go hang out with the cast after work. Amy also offered warmly to walk with her. As you read this passage, you can tell that Mindy is genuinely in awe of her as she reminisce her admiration of Amy and watching her on Conan O’Brien’s show. She describes Amy’s laugh as “a warm intoxicating cackle”. She also felt that Amy, in that moment, became a mentor/role model to her as a woman in comedy. I hope in the future they star in a movie together or Amy makes a guest appearance on the Mindy project.

More on that subject, I also enjoyed Mindy’s breakdown of how women are portrayed in romantic comedies and typically categorized. Such examples include “the woman who is obsessed with her career and is no fun at all” (like Miranda in the Devil Wears Prada), “the sassy best friend”, and “the klutz” and “the ethereal weirdo”. Mindy bluntly says these women do not exist in real life and she indicates there is no happy medium among all these characters. They are always on one extreme side of the spectrum. When they are beautiful and drop dead gorgeous, they are total klutzes or sexy and kind of passive. When they are not pictured as “drop dead gorgeous”, they are serious minded and not full of emotion but eventually find their beauty. From reading, I could see Mindy’s determination in breaking all these characters in her show as well as other comics like Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. On the Mindy Project, her character Dr. Lahiri has a serious career path, but that does not define her. She is also sassy best  friend who is having problems with dating and she can be a total klutz sometimes. In other words, Mindy’s character is not perfect but is portraying an everyday woman.

Finally, go read the book! It’s a great beach read or reading on the train!

Pride and Prejudice to a whole new level: Why I Love the Lizzie Bennet Diaries!

I have been obsessed with the Lizzie Bennet Video Diaries (as you have noticed from previous blogs). Having read Pride and Prejudice, watched the movie adaptation with Kiera Knighley, and read the reinterpretations (Mr. Darcy’s Diary) of Jane Austen’s most famous novel, I was primarily quite intrigued by this video diary series. I heard of the Lizzie Bennett video blogs through the rave reviews from Ms.Magazine for its mentions of important subjects such as the Violence Against Women Act. So I was curious and decided to take a little work break, and watch the videos. But when I started with the first video of the diary series, I was immediately hooked!

Besides portraying Lizzie Bennet (played by Ashley Clemens) as an amazing 21st century out-spoken badass chick and Mr. Darcy (Daniel Vincent Gordh) as a totally handsome, misunderstood, yet good-hearted successful CEO of a multimedia company, Pemberley Digital, the video diaries incorporates incredible supporting yet outgoing characters portrayed by Asian Americans, specifically Bing Lee  (played by Christopher Sean), Jane’s love interest, and Charlotte Lu (portrayed by Julia Cho), Lizzie’s best friend…and Caroline Lee, Bing’s sister (even though she is a total backstabber!).

This video diary series smartly depicted Jane Austen’s characters to be extremely relatable to today’s audience. Like many of us millenials, Lizzie Bennet and  Charlotte Lu are struggling grad students with an uncertain future in a bad economy, whose families are facing financial difficulties, strongly emphasizing today’s dwindling middle class in America. In particular, Charlotte’s family used to live in a house, but now they live in a 2-bedroom apartment in order to pay for Charlotte and her sister’s higher education fees.

When Lizzie initially turns down Mr.Collins’s offer to work for his venture capitalist company appropriately entitled Collins & Collins, Charlotte immediately jumps to take the opportunity instead. Lizzie and she have an argument over this where Charlotte then reveals her family’s economic struggles where her sister is about to go college and Charlotte has to drop out of graduate school and take the job at Collins & Collins. Once she starts work at Collins & Collins, Charlotte is put in charge of many projects in the background (this aspect is seen too with Lizzie’s diaries where Charlotte is the video editor) while Mr. Collins constantly goes up to Winnipeg to visit his fiancée even though he is the CEO causing Charlotte to almost miss Thanksgiving. Hence, reviving the idea that Asian American women work hard and just do what they’re told (But thanks to Lizzie Bennet’s genius and sneaky tactics…Charlotte was not only get home but get a huge promotion and be recognized for her amazing hard work).

Simultaneously, the Lizzie Bennet Diaries illustrate the variation of Asian Americans in showing families at different income levels. Whereas Charlotte and her family are at the middle-low income level struggling in debt,  Bing Lee’s family are at the upper high class (maybe close to the 1 percent) where as emphasized by Lizzie, live in a huge mansion with multiple shower heads in one bathroom.

Bing Lee, at first, does represent the Asian American stereotype in that his family expects him to succeed academically and become a medical doctor. However, as the video diaries progress, Bing ends up going against the popular stereotype (and his family) by dropping out of medical school and moves to New York with Jane Bennett (yay for happy inter-racial relationships!) and pursues a career that supposedly puts smiles on children’s faces. What I do LOVE about Bing’s character, though, is this is one of the few times in a romantic comedy/young adult video, an Asian American is the hot-shot jock that girls swoon over and aspire to be with (the other time where this happened to my memory is when Paolo Montalban plays Prince Charming in the Whitney Houston 1997 remake of Cinderella). Often times, Asian American guys play the nerd or the creepy/emo guy in these mediums whereas the hot shot jock is often played by a White guy (sometimes African American). In Lizzie Bennett, he’s not only smart/successful….he’s dashing and devastatingly good looking! It is truly awesome to visualize Jane Austen ‘s handsome charismatic character being portrayed by an Asian American. (Not to say the Charles Bingley portrayed by Simon Woods in the Kiera Knightley version was not as handsome and charming). He’s not only handsome, but he is caring, warm, and doting as we see when Jane gets sick when she stays over at Bing’s house and he goes and finds her favorite movie.

Overall, I loved how this diary series brings Pride and Prejudice to a more modern perspective filled with young women pursuing professional careers and aiming to the top of their fields instead of seeking prospective husbands no matter how hard Mrs. Bennet tries (they do get the guy in the end…but they decide to start slow in their relationships not get married right away!). And more importantly, strong female friendships/relationships where Charlotte and Lizzie actively experience ups and downs and be each other’s support person through thick and thin despite the odds and defend each other (whereas the Charlotte in the original Pride and Prejudice has a more subtle role). In other words, hats off to the Lizzie Bennett Diaries!

Books I Recommend: Somewhere Inside by Lisa and Laura Ling

I actually read this book a little over a year ago. But Somewhere Inside still remains as one of the most compelling not to mention most emotional autobiography I have ever read (there were definitely times when I was crying while reading this book on the Boston T). This memoir recalls journalist, Laura Ling’s experience of being jailed in North Korea after being accused of illegally trespassing into the border along with her co-worker, Euna Lee as well as her sister, Lisa Ling’s campaign in rescuing them from captivity. The story also incorporates stories of Lisa and Laura’s childhood and growing up together as sisters and how their sibling relationship has evolved and further strengthened during Laura’s captivity. It is this positive enforcement that pushed Lisa’s determination to get her sister and her colleague out of North Korea.

Reading through this book, I could definitely tell this was some form of therapy particularly for Laura Ling who chose to recount her life in North Korea living in fear for several months inside a closed nation, not knowing whether she’ll be free or be imprisoned forever and never see her family again.  She and Euna were kept separately and lived in separate prisons. However, despite being imprisoned, Laura was able to make friends with the prison guards in her cell and be able to communicate with them. She was also well-fed and provided medical care. At the same time, she had to endure the commanding and often frustrating demands and unpredictable behavior of the North Korean government in trying to find solutions for her freedom. She and her family also had to be careful about how they communicated to each other through letters and occasional phone calls because they were constantly being watched and screened by the North Korean government.

Furthermore, the book clearly sheds light on life of people in North Korea and the terrible environmental and social conditions the country’s citizens are living under. Overall, Somewhere Inside illustrates the challenges and risks, serious journalists encounter when trying to expose the truth about the world’s problems.

Books I Recommend: Delightfully Different by D.S Walker

I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting this fabulous author, D.S. Walker while I was at a conference in Hawaii. Walker wrote a wonderful novel entitled, Delightfully Different, a story loosely based on the life of the author and her daughter. Delightfully Different is about a little Asian American/Pacific Islander girl named Mia and her mother, Francesca and their relationship. Mia loves music and enjoys composing songs on the piano. However, as the novel progresses, Mia obtains sensory issues like not liking her feet to touch the grass or talking on the phone. Her family can’t figure out what her problems. The problems worsen as Mia enters 5th grade where she is bullied by her classmate and the school counselor does nothing to help her, only make her feel guiltier. It is then discovered that Mia has Asperger’s Syndrome. Through the support of their family, Mia and Francesca’s relationship experiences leaps and boundaries as they learn more about Asperger’s Syndrome, try to implement anti-bullying strategies and policies in Mia’s elementary school and Mia learning to forgive those around her and their ignorance of Asperger’s Syndrome.

Even though Mia is bullied because she has Asperger’s Syndrome, her story can definitely relate to all children and young adults who currently experience bullying and/or have been bullied and their parents. Her story emphasizes the fact there needs to be more education and services especially for public schools and families on Asperger’s Syndrome and children with Asperger’s Syndrome need support, strong communication and love from especially from their family. In the book, Mia struggles with her relationship with her father and paternal grandmother as they do not fully grasp their understanding of Mia’s diagnosis. In addition, the story highlights cultural misunderstandings particularly between first generation Asian American immigrants and their grandchildren. This is shown between Mia wondering why her father and grandmother always having high expectations of her academically but do not show her any sense of affection and sympathy as she struggles through her Asperger’s syndrome. Her mother then has to explain to her that they were raised in a culture to not show affection and they still are learning how to express that affection.

Overall, I recommend anyone to read this book because it is truly a powerful piece of writing.

Here is more information about the author, D.S. Walker:

http://authordswalker.com/

can’t wait to read this book!

Fell Down the Rabbit Hole

Did Mindy Kaling read my post-college-mind?

I think so.

As you may have noticed from my recent batch of book reviews, I’m currently gorging on the cool lives of other people. And how dare you suggest that this is because I don’t want to face my own future and instead would prefer to daydream about one day writing a funny book about my awesome, interesting life. Because that would just be sad, and I would never do that. Ever.

Also, why is it that after every memoir I read, I’m convinced that I’ve found my life-long profession? My calling. My raison d’être. First, thanks to Tony Danza, it was to become an English teacher (which, let’s be real, is one of the few things (other than procuring looks of admiration and dropping oh-so-intelligent Jane Austen, Shakespeare, and Virginia Woolf quotes in everyday conversation which I clearly do all…

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What’s Going On?

Laura Ling does a special E! News documentary on bullying

Natalie Coughlin (who is a quarter filipino) talks about life outside the pool such as cooking lumpia

Asian American organizations are divided over Supreme Court case regarding whether universities should be allowed to consider race in admissions decisions

Minnesotan Ed Bok Lee wins American Book Award for his collection, “Whorled”

Books I Recommend: James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club with Yuki Castellano

One of the pleasures I enjoyed since grad school is over is reading for fun and enjoying a good novel/biography/non-fictional book either on the train to work or in the evening. One particular book series I’ve been enjoying so far is the Women’s Murder Club series by James Patterson. The book consists of 4 leading characters, Lindsay Boxer, lieutenant detective; Claire Washburn, medical examiner; Cindy Thomas, journalist; and Yuki Castellano, district attorney. This group of confident… not to mention tough badass women take on the most brutal crimes in the city of San Francisco. So far there are 11 books in the series (hopefully Patterson continues to write more) starting with 1st to Die. I had just finished the 8th book, the 8th Confession.

Yuki is half Japanese (mother) and half Italian (father).  Even though Yuki does not appear till the 4th book, 4th of July, I was happy to read that a strong Asian American woman character was being written in a major book series by a famous American (not to mention white male) author. While the novel focuses on detective Lindsay Boxer and her solving notorious crimes, the other three characters provide her with significant support as they pursue the murder suspect and bring them to justice. Aside from being San Francisco’s lead district attorney in the series, Yuki becomes one of Lindsay’s notable confidante and friend. Both women console and encourage each other as they go through social relationships and career struggles. Their friendship begins when Yuki is assigned to take on a case in the fourth book where a family sues the San Francisco Police Department and Lindsay for shooting their children where Yuki claims that Lindsay is falsely accused. As the book series continues, Yuki becomes the fourth member of the Women’s Murder Club. Patterson, however, does add elements  that reiterate characteristics of Asian stereotypes. In the 5th book, the 5th Horseman, Yuki’s mother, Mrs. Castellano keeps pestering Yuki and her friends to find a lawyer/doctor for a husband and tries to set Yuki up every opportunity she gets and pressures Yuki to get married since she is getting older. Nevertheless, that element gets down-played as the relationship between Yuki and her mother is one of emotional affection and guidance of  mother/daughter.  As the fifth book progresses, Mrs. Castellano’s life gets cut short when she is murdered by a nurse through a hospital mal-treatment of her brain seizure, an event that strongly pushes Yuki to take a position at the District Attorney office.

Furthermore, Patterson portrays Yuki as a persistent and determined and tough lawyer who does not like to lose cases. If she does lose, Yuki finds ways to redeem herself. At the same time, Yuki is caring and wonderful friend.

I totally recommend this series for anyone who enjoys mystery/detective novels and novels with strong female characters! If you are not a big fan, you should still check this series out…it might change your mind!