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No Land's Man
By Aasif Mandvi
There's not a lot to say about Aasif Mandvi's short and sharp memoir No Land's Man, but that doesn't mean it's not worth reading; in fact, I found this one of the more delightful short books I've read in recent months, a disarming and always humorous look at one Indian immigrant's journey from the subcontinent to England and eventually America, informed and influenced by Gen-X pop-culture the entire way. For those who only know Mandvi as one of the smartest contributors to Comedy Central's The Daily Show, they might be surprised to know that he has an equal amount of experience in the arts delving into drama and intellectualism, with his one-man play Sakina's Restaurant eventually turned into the successful indie film Today's Special, and with Mandvi taking various parts over the years in plays by Tom Stoppard, Tony Kushner and more; and both of these sides of this talented writer and performer are on display in this small but engaging new book, a self-deprecating yet earnest look at Mandvi's youth as a picked-on Indian nerd in a working-class British town, before his family's random move to Tampa, Florida and his '80s dreams of American success as defined through bad television. (One of the funniest chapters here is how Mandvi aspired as a youth to become the next Fonzie, insisting that his parents call him "The Monz" until his mother finally revolted, passionately lecturing him on the superior acting skills of Omar Sharif over Henry Winkler.) A fast and entertaining read that should take most people no more than a day or two to finish, this comes strongly recommended to both comedy fans and those interested in first-hand looks at the American immigration experience, as well as anyone else looking for a sweet, funny story about nerdom and outsider culture.
Out of 10: 9.3