I have nurtured a life-long love affair with reading. Our kinship began with colorful picture books that evoked my developing brain’s most whimsical imaginings. As I evolved and grew, so did my taste, veering through an eclectic array of genres. “Barney’s Book of Colors” became my nightly ritual, and the American Girl Doll books became sacred texts. I wandered through Green Gables with Anne, conjured up plays and stories with Jo March, and caroused with Jay Gatsby. But recently, my literary escapades have led me to entirely unfamiliar territory: funny lady memoirs.
At the urging of more than one fellow bookworm, I purchased a copy of Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” and ceremoniously commenced my infatuation with funny lady memoirs. Now, I know well that this could simply be a phase, and I by no means claim to identify as a funny lady memoir connoisseur. In fact, my foray into this sphere is nowhere near significant. But in the past year, I’ve read four funny lady memoirs, discovering both compelling content and meaningless fluff. Below is my amateur guide to a sampling of this flourishing genre, which I hope will serve as a constructive guide if these women’s stories are to be your next bookish indulgence.
“Bossypants” – Tina Fey
Tina Fey undoubtedly possesses whatever comedy’s version is of King Midas’ golden touch. Her intrinsic hilarity has been verified over and over again, and her 2011, New York Times best-selling memoir is no exception. Fey’s anecdotes throughout the book are irresistable, from her teenage, summer days working at theatre camp to performing as Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. “Bossypants” is remarkably honest, and Fey does not stray away humorously addressing her awkward dress and hairstyles as a child, her absent sex-life in college, or her struggle to balance work and motherhood. With this triumph of a novel, Fey ushered in a new age of popular funny lady memoirs, and I could not imagine anyone more qualified to pioneer this fascinating movement.
“I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman” – Nora Ephron
When The New York Times called “Bossypants” “a spiky blend of humor, introspection, critical thinking and Nora Ephron-isms for a new generation,” they were referring to the late writer and filmmaker known for her sharp wit and beautifully crafted stories. Her book, published in 2006, features a series of short, personal essays all relating to the topic of being a woman. It is clear the Ephron’s proclivity for wordplay and comicality never faltered as she aged; it matured and bloomed even as the heyday of her writing career had passed. She recounts her culinary adventures, satirizes the collection of junk in her purse, and candidly discusses parenting teenagers and her upsetting divorce. However, if you were looking for a glimpse into the thought process or inspiration behind her famed written movies, you won’t find it here. I was disappointed that there was not a single reference to “When Harry Met Sally,” a new favorite movie of mine and the impetus to purchase this novel. But if you take this memoir for what it is, you will be delighted with Ephron’s amusing insight and one-of-a-kind writing, and wish she was still alive to write even more indelible, classic stories.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) – Mindy Kaling
With almost no knowledge about Mindy Kaling, other than brief peeps I’ve gleaned while my sister watches The Office, I embarked on her 2012 memoir with only the awareness that it was critically acclaimed. On completion of the book, I can now firmly say its praise is well-deserved, and I’ve fallen in love with Kaling in the process. Most people know Kaling from her hit show, “The Mindy Project”, or from her appearances on The Office. But there is so much more to Kaling’s story. Through her un-put-downable memoir, I gained a deep appreciation for her unique comedic voice, her uniquely uproarious route to success, and her work behind-the-scenes on The Office that catapulted her to become a household name in comedy. Though I loved out loud throughout her book, Kaling undoubtedly comes across as very dramatic and even high maintenance, falling just slightly under what my personal threshold can handle. But even if you don’t think you’d be Kaling’s friend in real life, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more enjoyable read than the one she produced with her debut novel.
Talking as Fast as I Can – Lauren Graham
If you are a Gilmore Girls fan like I am, then you will certainly know Lauren Graham. Rising to fame in the role of the fast-talking, trouble-starting Lorelai Gilmore, Graham’s memoir proves she can do more than perform comedy; she can write it, too. Graham takes the reader on a journey “from Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and everything in between)”, covering her entry into acting, her famed portrayal of Lorelai Gilmore, meeting her long-time boyfriend Peter Krause on the set of Parenthood, and her return to her most well-known character for the Gilmore Girls revival. Graham’s discussion of her early days in Hollywood are particularly powerful, and she does not shy away from showing the reader what it feels like to be a starving artist in pursuit of a dream. She even presents the reader with writing tips given to her by a friend, which she abides by when she writes. But in other areas, her memoir starts to feel like a wanna-be “Bossypants;” especially when she discusses society’s absurd expectations for how a woman should look, her perspective almost too coincidentally resemble Fey’s unbeatable passage. I am in no way accusing Graham of plagiarizing, I do feel there are very distinct areas of the book that portray what she does well, and where she lacks some originality. Luckily for the reader, there is a lot she does very well and her memoir is a highly enjoyable read.
There is an age-old illusion, created and nurtured by domineering men, that women cannot be funny. In response to this sexist quip, I would do no more than simply point these misguided gentlemen to the work women are doing right now, specifically in literature. Funny lady memoirs are such excellent representations of the kind of female-driven comedy the world needs more of. The memoirs, of course, have their flaws, but so do the women who wrote them. So does everyone. The beauty of these books are their unfailing honesty, and their vivacious spirit. Who knows how long this literary phase will last for me, but all I know is that I’m four books down, and thoroughly enjoying the ride.