Yes, My Accent is Real: and Some Other Things I Haven’t Told You by Kunal Nayyar.
Atria Paperback, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, New York, 2015 (my edition 2016).
Personal essays, 245 pages.
At only 34, Nayyar is best known for playing the role of Rajesh, an Indian immigrant and astrophysicist with selective mutism, on the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory.
I have a soft spot for diverse celebrity memoirs, especially if I happen to actually know who the celebrity is. This was one of those guilty pleasure books that you know won’t be very filling but want to read anyway.
The format was unusual – more like short essays punctuated by “A Thought Recorded on an Aeroplane Cocktail Napkin” every so often. They are roughly chronological (although this isn’t an autobiography) and roughly written, so I believe Nayyar wrote this himself (or if not, his ghostwriter owes him a big refund).
The quality is fairly uneven. Some chapters work too hard at being funny – Nayyar’s gift for comedy doesn’t come across well on the page. There were a few points that amused me, but others that were pressed too hard. And this book is definitely not politically correct by any stretch of the imagination, which didn’t bother me when he talked about his own ethnicity but felt a little off when he was commenting on other groups. It didn’t quite cross the line that would offend me, but Nayyar was definitely flirting with that line. (And any other female that would speak to him, in all the middle chapters.)
On the other hand, the chapters where he talks quite lovingly about his parents and parts of his description of his future wife were touching. The chapter “Dinners with Dad” was probably my favorite in the book and contained some pretty solid practical advice alongside the anecdotes. I also appreciated his unique take on a variety of festivals, some of which we’d studied before, but of course hearing a personal experience is always enriching.
The section I found funniest was his tales of the badminton court. I played some at a similar age and although the circumstances were very different, his experiences greatly amused me. However, I’m not sure how this section would go over with most American audiences as badminton is not at all a popular sport here!
Nayyar is pretty open about his privilege with stories about how embarrassed he was by his inability to make ramen noodles and his assumption that employees were changing the sheets in the college dorm. He parlays his ethnicity into a job at the computer center (where he has no idea what he’s doing) and talks frankly about his regrets of mocking and not helping other international students who were struggling. I admired his honesty.
His relationships with women were messed up, and he seemed to be mostly thinking about how to get what he wanted from them. I was severely irritated by those parts of the book until he met his wife and began to settle down.
This book in general is not appropriate for young readers. There was quite a bit of strong language used and many sexual references. I was actually quite a bit surprised by how adult this book was. Some of the jokes are fairly off-color, too, and it doesn’t come off as well without Nayyar’s self-depricating shrug. However, some of the chapters could possibly be adapted for read-aloud if your child was a big fan of the show.
Overall, as you can guess from the review this far, I wouldn’t consider this a must read by any stretch of the imagination. But if you enjoy the show, or celebrity memoirs, then this is an easy way to add a little PoC reading into a light read. It was very middle-of-the-road, so if your expectations aren’t too high, you may be satisfied as I was. After such a fluffy book, I’m feeling ready to drop back in on some of this year’s challenge reading.
What genre, or summer read, is your guilty pleasure?