Title: No Land’s Man
Author: Aasif Mandvi
Listening Time: 4 hours, 23 min / Pages: 240
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Publisher: Audible (audio) / Chronicle Books (print)
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Cultural (South Asia), Essays
Source: Publisher (Audible review copy)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Aasif Mandvi delves into his personal history in this memoir, discussing his upbringing as an Indian Muslim in the UK, move to the United States, and his life as a conundrum, a nonreligious Muslim who has become the spokesperson for an entire skin color and region of the world because of his role as a Daily Show correspondent.
Celebrity memoirs are a dime a dozen, but Aasif Mandvi’s stands out for its frank look at Mandvi’s complicated cultural and religious identity. It’s laugh out loud hilarious, and Mandvi’s audiobook narration is a real treat. Whether you’re a fan of Mandvi’s or not, if you enjoy memoirs and cultural stories, this audiobook is worth seeking out.
I’m generally a big fan of Aasif Mandvi, so when I heard he had written a memoir (in the form of an essay collection), I was very excited. Then I found out he was narrating his own audiobook, which just made me clamor for this book even more—when it comes to funny celebrities, if they narrate their own audiobook, I’m almost always interested in listening. The fact that I already loved Aasif Mandvi only added to my excitement at this book, and I am thrilled to say it didn’t disappoint for a second.
The theme of Mandvi’s memoir is clear from the title: No Land’s Man. It’s about the bundle of contradictions that makes up Mandvi, and the identity issues that he experienced growing up and beyond. Each of the essays in this collection reflects this, from being bullied as a child because of his skin color and religion to representing his idol, Michael Jackson, in a dance for a talent show (an essay that had me gasping for breath because I was laughing so loud). Anyone who’s felt different, regardless of race, culture, or religion, can sympathize with Mandvi’s fish out of water stories and understand his feelings.
No Land’s Man cover the bulk of Mandvi’s life, from his childhood to his role as a correspondent on The Daily Show, but because they’re essays, they’re more focused. I really appreciate the combination memoir/essay for celebrities because it allows them to hone in on individual stories and memories, rather than trying to jam pack everything into one book. There’s plenty of room for a second memoir from Mandvi (and I certainly hope it’s coming), but the reader gets a great sense of who Mandvi is, what is important to him, and how his past experiences has shaped who he’s become.
The audiobook of No Land’s Man runs for almost 5 hours and is unabridged. It’s a quick listen, and Mandvi does a great job as the narrator. I imagine this memoir would be hilarious regardless of what format you read it in, but I have to say that I absolutely loved it in audio. Listening to Mandvi narrate his own stories, with his emphases and inflections, had me laughing out loud again and again. It is just so funny, but it’s also heartfelt and sincere. Most of all, I really loved how frankly Mandvi talked about his culture, his religion, and his identity, and how much his stories resonated with my own cultural identity as an American woman with a Hindu Indian heritage. This is an extremely well done memoir, and I hope it’s not the last one from Aasif Mandvi.