Books Magazine

You Can’t Be Serious by Kal Penn

By Joyweesemoll @joyweesemoll

Book: You Can't Be Serious by Kal Penn
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Simon Schuster Audio
Publication date: 2021

Source: Audio eBook borrowed from the library

You Can’t Be Serious by Kal Penn
Summary: Kal Penn is a Hollywood actor and former White House staffer, which is weird enough to make an entertaining story of a life. To add to the fun, throw in that he's funny and has a trained voice. To add some depth, You Can't Be Serious reveals the shocking (at least, if you're white like me) racism toward South Asians from middle school to the film industry.

Thoughts: You Can't Be Serious was the June selection for the Community for Understanding and Hope Book Group.

This was our 15th anniversary meeting.

The Community for Understanding and Hope began as a serious of dialogue meetings about race after the 2008 Kirkwood City Hall Shooting in 2008.

Those large monthly meetings went on a summer hiatus, but one of the leaders hosted a three-session summer book group to fill the gap. At the end of the summer, the readers didn't feel finished, so we kept going. The dialogue meetings ceased long ago, but the book group is still going! You Can't Be Serious was the 138th book we've read together.

Given our history, we mostly focus on the black and white experiences in the US. You Can't Be Serious was our first look at the South Asian immigrant experience, which followed our first look at the East Asian immigrant experience last month with the book Beautiful Country.

As we discovered when we began reading books about American Indian peoples in the last couple of years, a different perspective deepens and expands our knowledge of the small and large ways that racism still shapes the United States today.

Our book has grappled with history books and academic texts. When we started our conversation this week, we all admitted to enjoying the book. There was some wondering about whether a funny memoir about an actor would provide enough fodder for a robust discussion. It was more than enough. We got a little off topic, here and there, but I think we would have kept going all night, given the opportunity.

Appeal: The things that we most enjoyed about You Can't Be Serious were the insider stories of Hollywood and the early years of the Obama presidency. We also talked about childhood, parenthood, and family (especially the dynamics in Indian-American families). There's a lot to unpack in You Can't Be Serious. I highly recommend the audio book experience.

Challenges: I lost track of how many books I've read for the 2023 Diversity Reading Challenge - I'm pretty sure that it's more than the five that I pledged to read. You Can't Be Serious counts, as all of my book group books do. Also, Kal Penn slips in that he's gay - according to his Wikipedia article that was new information in the world revealed during the book launch in 2021. So, I also get credit for meeting the mini-challenge of reading a Pride Month book.

You Can't Be Serious completes my 2023 Nonfiction Reader Challenge to read six nonfiction books in six categories. You Can't Be Serious talks a lot about the craft of acting (there's more to it than I imagined!) so it counts as my book for The Arts.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Can’t Serious Penn
You Can’t Be Serious by Kal Penn

About Joy Weese Moll

a librarian writing about books

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