Published by Atria Books on September 15, 2015
Genres: Nonfiction, Humor, Memoir, Essays
Of all the charming misfits on television, there’s no doubt Raj from The Big Bang Theory — the sincere yet incurably geeky Indian-American astrophysicist — ranks among the misfittingest. Now, we meet the actor who is every bit as loveable as the character he plays on TV. In this revealing collection of essays written in his irreverent, hilarious, and self-deprecating voice, Kunal Nayyar traces his journey from a little boy in New Delhi who mistakes an awkward first kiss for a sacred commitment, gets nosebleeds chugging Coca-Cola to impress other students, and excels in the sport of badminton, to the confident, successful actor on the set of TV’s most-watched sitcom since Friends.
Going behind the scenes of The Big Bang Theory and into his personal experiences, Kunal introduces readers to the people who helped him grow, such as his James Bond-loving, mustachioed father who taught him the most important lessons in life: Treat a beggar as you would a king. There are two sides to every story. A smile goes a long way. And, when in doubt, use a spreadsheet. Kunal also walks us through his college years in Portland, where he takes his first sips of alcohol and learns to let loose with his French, 6’8” gentle-giant roommate, works his first-ever job for the university’s housekeeping department cleaning toilets for minimum wage, and begins a series of romantic exploits that go just about as well as they would for Raj. (That is, until he meets and marries a former Miss India in an elaborate seven-day event that we get to experience in a chapter titled “My Big Fat Indian Wedding.”)
Full of heart, but never taking itself too seriously, this witty and often inspiring collection of underdog tales follows a young man as he traverses two continents in search of a dream, along the way transcending culture and language (and many, many embarrassing incidents) to somehow miraculously land the role of a lifetime.
As a huge fan of The Big Bang Theory, I knew I had to read Kunal Nayyar’s book and immediately added it to my wish list. I received it for Christmas this year, and read it straight away. Yes, My Accent is Real is a book of essays chronicling Nayyar’s life from childhood and through today. While it lives in the humor section of the bookstore, it includes so much more.
My initial reaction the book was not good. For the first forty or so pages, I was quite disappointed! The essays were okay, but I felt like they just grazed the surface, and I didn’t find them quite captivating. Luckily, once I got to the chapter entitled “Dinners with Dad,” I was hooked. In fact, I loved every essay that included Nayyar’s father! He seems to be such a kind, supportive, and wise man. I would very much like to meet him based on his presence in the book!
I really liked getting to know more about Nayyar’s life, especially his Indian culture. The book flows well and is written more or less in chronological order. That made the book easier to follow, and it also made the experimental aspects easier to swallow. For example, there are some small snippets in-between chapters that would have seemed out of place if not for the otherwise chronological nature.
Moreover, I really appreciated reading Yes, My Accent is Real at this point in my life. I am a recent graduate, and Nayyar understands how scary this time in life can be. He does a great job at offering advice that is not preachy, but still very helpful. This is true for the entire book. Nayyar weaves in advice with his personal stories, and I want to go back and explore some of his unique ideas more. I also want to mention that this book can be enjoyed by non-postgrads as well – my mom read it and loved it!
Of course, Yes, My Accent is Real includes a behind-the-scenes look at The Big Bang Theory, the television show in which Nayyar plays Raj Koothrapali. Fans get to learn more about their favorite show, but the book isn’t completely focused on it. I think there is a good balance between Nayyar’s life and the juice about The Big Bang Theory.
Finally, I will mention that there are a few editing issues in the book. I also didn’t enjoy the very short essays that were only 1-2 pages long. I found it difficult to really see any meaning in them, especially when compared to the longer chapters that were quite emotional.
That being said, I really enjoyed Yes, My Accent is Real once I got past the so-so beginning. I find Nayyar’s life both really interesting and relatable, and I loved learning more about him as a person. If you are a fan of The Big Bang Theory, I think this is a must read for you. If not, I’d give this a try if you enjoy memoirs or personal essay collections.
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