Stories told by comedians and a plastic surgeon that should have been one — NWAW’s monthly must-reads

By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly

http://nwasianweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/31_15/shelf_mindy.jpg“Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)”
By Mindy Kaling
Crown Archetype, 2011

Before she became known as the self-involved, boy-crazy Kelly Kapoor on “The Office,” she was Mindy Kaling, a girl from Cambridge, Mass., with a love for comedy. Growing up, she was a bit on the chubby side, the furthest thing from an athlete. It took her a while to realize what true friendship meant.

In “Hanging Out,” Kaling shares the story of how she went from an admittedly asexual-looking kid to one of People magazine’s Most Beautiful People in 2011. We learn — among other things — about her time performing off-Broadway as a Ben Affleck impersonator, her take on romantic comedies, her views on dating, marriage, and relationships, and what the set of “The Office” is really like. Kaling also shares her views on proper karaoke etiquette, best friend responsibilities and rights, and the differences between men and boys. She even leaves detailed instructions on how she wants her funeral.

What I loved about “Hanging Out” was not just the stories Kaling shares about her life and career, but also that she shares the more painful moments she has experienced. Kaling reflects on them in a matter-of-fact way that shows she’s not afraid to laugh at herself. This makes her relatable to the readers.

I also enjoyed Kaling’s style of writing and how conversational it is. I felt like it was her actual voice. Reading this book was more like reading a personal letter. By the end of the book, I felt as if Kaling and I were friends.

The fact that we aren’t really friends made me want to be and just, well, hang out with her.

http://nwasianweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/31_15/shelf_russell.jpg“Call Me Russell”
By Russell Peters
Anchor Canada, 2011

Russell Peters is a lot of things: Anglo Indian, Canadian, comedian. And he can be described in many ways: funny, thoughtful, thankful. But above all, Russell Peters is honest.

In his memoir “Call Me Russell,” Peters opens up about his childhood in Brampton, Ontario — his immigrant parents’ struggles when they left India for Canada, being bullied, living with attention deficit disorder, and gaining fame through YouTube. Peters also shares the challenges he faced becoming a comedian, a South Asian comedian — something the world had never really seen.

As a huge Russell Peters fan, I was excited for the opportunity to get to know one of my favorite comedians better. However, I was also worried I’d be disappointed.

I’m happy to say that I wasn’t.

Though “Russell” describes many funny moments, the book is not laugh after laugh. This may be a letdown for some, but Peters discusses his life, and sometimes, life is not funny.

From his father’s death in 2004, which hit Peters very hard, to having a cousin that was murdered, to being called a “Paki” and dealing with the backlash of telling jokes about race and clashing cultures, parts of Peters’ book touch on serious issues.

One of the things I enjoyed about this book was learning about Peters’ process in writing his standup lines. He puts a lot of thought into what he says, and when his jokes seriously offend others, he makes it a point to talk to them directly to learn why they were so offended.

Peters’ love for his family was one of my favorite things to learn about. Despite his success, Peters remains humble. He constantly refers to his family, immediate and extended, as a point of strength — especially to his father, whom he idolized.

http://nwasianweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/31_15/shelf_stitches.jpg“In Stitches”
By Anthony Youn, M.D.
Gallery Books, 2011

Tony Youn knew he was going to be a doctor when he grew up. That’s not to say he wanted to be a doctor, but he knew. His father said so.

“In Stitches” is Youn’s story of himself, one of two non-white kids in a Midwest town (the second kid being his brother), desperately and unsuccessfully trying to fit in with his bowl haircut, Coke-bottle glasses, and Hannibal Lecter headgear. He’s now a plastic surgeon who has made various TV appearances on CNN, and early morning and daytime talk shows.

Readers get a glimpse of what life is like for the son of Korean immigrants living in an all-white town (not great) and what life is like for a new medical student (even worse).

I really enjoyed reading about the latter and learning from Youn’s firsthand experiences what medical school can be like. Although medical school is a lot of stress, with barely any social life and no sleep, Youn reflects on his experiences with dry wit and self-deprecating humor that will make readers smile.

I also enjoyed reading about Youn’s dating misadventures as he struggled in dealing with the female species.

In high school, he chauffeured for a girl who dated everyone but him, and he gets rejected by every girl he asks out during his undergraduate years. It’s clear Youn knows next to nothing about women, but that doesn’t keep him from trying.

This type of determination gets him through the hell that is medical school, and you can’t help but admire it. (end)

Samantha Pak can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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