Monday, March 07, 2016

Let Mindy Explain It All To You

Why am I writing about Mindy Kaling's book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, a book of essays for adult readers, here at a children's lit blog? Is it just because she is fantastic, cleverly superficial and sophisticated at the same time? Well, that would be reason enough. But as it turns out, I've got more than that in mind.

Something For Young Readers

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a series of personal essays, a form I'm interested in. So there's that. Additionally, though, this is a series of personal essays I think would be a good cross-over for YA readers.

I didn't like essays as a teenager. I probably wasn't exposed to personal essays at that time, but informational ones. Maybe informational essays from boring white guys, dead or alive. It wasn't until I got to college that I became interested. I think reading Nora Ephron's essays in Esquire was my breakthrough. That was by way of my rogue reading, by the way, not college assignments.

I think Kaling's memoirish essays in Is Everyone Hanging Out With Me? could do the same thing for teen readers, in large part because the book begins with a section on her childhood/adolescence. In spite of accepting early on that she wouldn't be dating until college, maybe graduate school, she seems to have been a remarkably happy teenager. How novel is that? She writes about body image issues at the beginning of the book, too, without a lot of angst. There's a little of that later, but she fixes that problem. Superb dress, by the way, Mindy. You rock it.

And Kaling is funny.

Something For People Who Should Be Talking About Humor

In children's literature, and maybe in education, and certainly among parents, I have heard talk about why so many children's books that are read as part of elementary school classes are, well, ah, how to put this? Okay. Not funny. Kids like to read humor. Schools like to teach serious, even sad, even depressing books. I once read that this is because teachers need to be able to discuss a book in class, and you can't talk about humor. Something is funny or it isn't. What's to talk about?

But there are people who do talk about humor. Comedy writers do it all the time. They talk about how they put together sets. They talk about what works with humor. They have to know this stuff. Kaling is a comedy writer and comic actress. In her book, she writes about things she'd like to write and her favorite moments in comedy, among other things.

This is the kind of information people who want to talk about humorous books can use.

And, of course, with Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? you can get this information in a very entertaining way.

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