When I’ve really been in love with someone, it’s not because they looked a certain way or liked a certain TV show or a certain cuisine. It’s more because when I watched a certain TV show or ate a certain cuisine with them, it was the most fun thing ever.
Modern Romance: An Investigation, by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg
I never watched Parks and Recreation, so when I recently dived into Master of None, Aziz Ansari’s new show for Netflix, it was on a whim. I’m a devout believer in Netflix, and so far I haven’t really been disappointed in any of their original content (well, other than the third seasons of both Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards, but that’s a different topic).
I ended up loving the show. Each episode is dedicated to an idea that Aziz (or Dev, the character he plays in the show) wants to tackle: feminism, how Indians are represented in Western media, being the child of immigrant parents, and so on. Since the episodes are so explicitly dedicated to tackling these issues, they can sometimes come off preachy or awkward. Still, I loved and identified with the show, and it led me to watching Aziz’s comedy specials (also on Netflix!) and reading this book.
I saw online that a lot of readers expected this book to be a memoir before reading it. The book does touch on some personal experiences here and there, none of which will be surprises if you’re a fan of Master of None. Aziz discusses his current relationship and his parents’ arranged marriage, reusing jokes and stories from his stand-up as well. The main focus of the book is investigating modern romance on a grander scale, which is why Aziz enlisted the help of sociologist Eric Klinenberg. Overall though, the book is full of keen and sometimes heartfelt insight into modern relationships and the impact that technology has had on them, with enough laughs thrown in to keep it a quick read.
As someone in their almost mid-twenties and experiencing modern romance for herself, though, I didn’t find much of the book surprising. Some of the conclusions drawn are obvious. However, what I found most interesting about the book was the research into cultures outside of my experience, like investigating the dating scene in Tokyo and Buenos Aires.
Even more so than this, I found the experiences of previous generations, which Aziz and Klinenberg gathered from residents at senior homes, fascinating. Reading about how women only two generations back, who had limited or no access to higher education, considered marriage the only escape from stifling, controlling parents made me rethink and be grateful for my own freedoms. It’s strange to think that had I been born a generation earlier, the odds of me typing out this review or even holding a 9 to 5 job are slimmer. I mean, my mom got married when she was my age…but that just goes to show how quickly things can change.
YES OR NO?: YES. To be honest, I’m not sure I “learned” much from this book, since much of it felt like common sense for my generation. I also may have overindulged in Aziz’s stand-up, which made parts of the book repetitive for me. Still, though, this is a quick and fun read that’ll give both young and older readers perspective on modern romance.