Yes Please, Amy Poehler

Welcome to 2016! I’m not going to crack any jokes about making or breaking resolutions a week in as it’s been years since I’ve even considered making some of my own, and honestly, the only other thing I can think of right now is that we’re now officially in Election year, and the whole political circus is going to be amped up to eleven until November. Just thinking about it is making me tired, so instead of dwelling on the questionable success of new starts and uncontrollable windbaggery, let’s break open that bag of emergency marshmallows (what? You don’t have an emergency bag of marshmallows?!) and make some reading-escape appropriate cocoa.

20910157Now, that we’ve settled in, I have to admit I’ve been on a little break from novels the last two months. During November, I was doing my own new-mom adaptation of National Novel Writing Month, where, instead of writing a completely impossible 50,000 words, I was trying to finish the first draft of the cozy mystery started last summer. Spoiler alert: I failed. I did get five chapters written, which was certainly better than nothing, but I had to extend my deadline to December 31 (which fortunately, I was able to meet). 

The whole endeavor was surprisingly difficult even though I was only eight chapters from the end. It was also much harder than any of the years I’ve done a traditional NANO novel, probably because I care more about this book than I do the crazy stories I’ve written in great speed in the past. On top of that, I care more about my son than I do about deadlines, which is both wonderful and challenging. On the one hand, writing makes me feel like a million bucks – on the other, well, I’m not the first parent to struggle with this particular problem.

But I digress. I was talking about my break from novels, not lamenting the existence Hermione Granger’s time-turner. I like to take a break from fiction when I’m doing a lot of my own writing. It clears my head and allows me to focus on working through those ideas rather than procrastinating with another writer’s story. Obviously, I can’t just give up reading though, so I often find myself a little niche to explore. This time around, it has been comediennes. 

Amy Poehler’s book was a recommended read after I finished Mindy Kaling’s, although it was a far different experience. Poehler is a much more serious person than I realized, and her book certainly reflects that. Unlike Tina Fey or Kaling, her focus is less on a laugh out loud read (although I did) than it is a grittier look at her own experiences. She hasn’t sugar-coated her past failures here. She’s done some things that certainly don’t endear her, but her response to those choices, and her perspective as an older comic and woman were powerful and worthy of respect. 

This is a woman who has worked incredibly hard and has lived a fascinating, if challenging life. She hasn’t done everything perfectly, but that’s shaped her comedy and made her, in my opinion, more worthy of her success. It was passages such as this one that touched me deeply and made this book special:

The hardest day in Haiti for me was when we visited a few orphanages. Some of these places were doing the best they could. Others had a long way to go. Jane’s colleague Noah and I saw babies living in cribs that looked like cages. A little boy named Woosley jumped into Noah’s arms and wouldn’t let go. He was desperate for attachment, and men were especially scarce. Woosley held on to Noah like a bramble. We were filled with anxiety because we knew we would have to say good-bye. Noah had to drop him back off at his crowded room, and Woosley hung on and started to get upset. He finally got down and faced a corner as he cried. It was the loneliest thing I have ever seen. A teacher went to him, but it barely comforted him.

Those kids needed so much holding. Kisses and hugs and clothes and parents. They needed everything. The enormity of what they needed was so intense. We ended up talking in the street with Jane, and crying. Jane was agitated and passionate. She talked about all the work left to do and all the small changes that can improve children’s lives. I was once again moved by her ability to steer into the curve. Jane was a big-wave rider. She didn’t make the mistake that most of us make, which is to close our eyes and hope the waves will go away or miss us or hit someone else. She dove in, headfirst. That night, I read the deeply calm and at times sneakily funny Pema Chödrön, one my favorite writers: “There are no promises. Look deeply at joy and sorrow, at laughing and crying, at hoping and fearing, at all that lives and dies. What truly heals is gratitude and tenderness.” Pema reminded me to practice tonglen, which is this meditation breathing exercise where you breathe in all the pain and breathe out nothing but love. It felt like the opposite of what I had been doing for a year. I felt one tiny molecule in the bottom of my heart feel better. (loc 3224)

13 thoughts on “Yes Please, Amy Poehler

  1. I didn’t realize until I read this review that I want the memoirs of comediennes to be serious. I want to know that they are grounded, because then they can be funny.

  2. I’ve been eyeing this book, and Tina Fey’s, for months now. I think I’ll start with this one. I didn’t know Mindy Kaling had a book out. I just finished a marathon binge of The Mindy Project, so I’m definitely interested in hers as well.

    So glad to see you back, and thank you for not blogging about resolutions :)

    1. Of the three (well, four, since Kaling has two), Fey’s was my favorite for a laugh out loud good time, but this was a great read on a more serious level! Hope you and the kiddo are doing well and happy new year!

  3. Great review! I think Amy Poehler did a great job of striking a balance between laugh out loud funny and serious storytelling. You don’t usually get to see that side of her on TV or in movies!

  4. Thanks for this, and I completely agree with you! I have been meaning to read Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling after listening to Yes Please.

    I loved it for the reasons that you mention as well, and thanks for reminding me that that was another book I “read” in 2015.

    (On the theme of resolutions: I didn’t track my reading very well in 2015, as an experiment to just live and not try to grasp everything too much. But I have ended up feeling like I read nothing, which is a feeling I don’t like, so I am going to not do that this year.)

  5. I recently read this as part of the reading challenge on my blog, and, like you, did not realize how serious she is beyond her comedy roles, although upon reflection, her success and career-related seriousness should have led me to that conclusion. I like that you included this Haiti passage, because this was perhaps the most surprising part of her book for me as I did not know she took this trip. This, and many many other segments of her book made me love and appreciate her as a human being even more.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. I agree – I doubt she could be as successful as she is without her serious side. It’s so hard to break into comedy, especially as a woman, and she has obviously worked her tail off to make it happen!

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