“The answers to making it, to me, are a lot more universal than anyone’s race or gender, and center on having a tolerance for delayed gratification, a passion for the craft, and a willingness to fail.”Ali Wong, Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, and Advice for Living Your Best Life
Life these past few months has been heavy. We have been embroiled in a highly divisive election, and the pandemic is still impacting our day-to-day lives. Moments of uninhibited joy and celebration sometimes seem few and far between. Our social lives have been drastically altered, and our mental health is suffering as a result. I am a big fan of standup comedy, but I’m now limited to watching old comedy specials on Netflix. Perhaps sensing my need for something silly and laugh-out-loud funny, my good friend sent me a copy of Dear Girls by Ali Wong in the mail. Even if you aren’t yet familiar with her name, you might have seen Ali on Netflix. In two hugely successful comedy specials, Ali Wong wears strikingly patterned dresses and large cat eye glasses, and she flaunts a noticeable pregnancy bump. In Dear Girls, readers and fans get a more intimate portrait of the comedian. Ali takes the time to address her young daughters, share stories about her life, and impart advice to readers. Dear Girls is a light read offering nuggets of wisdom and a lot of very funny moments. Though it wasn’t the most memorable book I will read this year, it was what I needed to put a smile on my face.
Ali’s humor is bolstered by her body language and the dramatic intonation of her voice. When I picked up her book, I worried that her jokes wouldn’t translate on the written page. In that respect, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was laughing out loud throughout the book. As someone familiar with her standup bits, I learned more about the people in her life that she so frequently discusses in her comedy. In the book, she talks about her experience with pregnancy and childbirth, the dynamics in her marriage, and her challenging relationship with her mother. Because she wasn’t confined to a one hour comedy special, she was able to delve deeper into her personal life than ever before. It was great to read more about her family and relationships because it helped me to appreciate her comedy even more. In a really touching moment in the book Ali gave her husband, Justin Hakuta, the opportunity to write his own chapter. Hearing his perspective on their love story was very heartwarming. There is clearly so much love in their family, and it was really beautiful to read.
I personally find it motivating to hear how successful people work and think. In Dear Girls, Ali talks about her early years hustling in San Francisco. To my surprise, Ali’s earlier material is much raunchier than what she performs now. In one scene, she describes how she used to show her bare ass to the audience. In the more recent shows I’ve seen, she only shows her underwear to the audience. It was fascinating to see how her shows have evolved over time. In her approach to comedy and life, Ali is fearless. She doesn’t worry about the judgment of others. In this respect, I found her story very liberating. As a woman, we sometimes feel a compulsion to look composed and be collected at all times. In contrast to these expectations, Ali is funny, ridiculous, and bold because she felt liberated from a young age to explore her body and her impulses without shame. She chases good feelings, and she isn’t afraid to look foolish. Ali’s message reminds readers that we don’t need to worry so much about the opinions of others. Sometimes when you are faced with an embarrassing situation it can make for a great story.
Many of the books that I’ve been reading this year have been dark and heavy in their subject matter. It was a refreshing change of pace to read a book written by a comedian. If you are a parent (particularly if you’re a mother) then you might relate and take solace in Ali’s experiences with motherhood. If you are someone who is trying to make it in the entertainment industry then you may find sources of inspiration in Ali’s story. Her memoir will join the ranks alongside other celebrity autobiographies such as The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish and The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher. All of these memoirs take serious subject matters and find levity in them. I would give Dear Girls an overall 3 out of 5 star rating. Try reading Dear Girls if you relate to how I felt, and you simply want something fun to read! Whether you choose to read Dear Girls or not, I urge you to take the time today to read a book, watch a tv show, or listen to a podcast that makes you feel good.