Title: Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman
Author: Lindy West
Genre: Memoir, Feminism, Non Fiction
First Publication: 2016
Coming of age in a culture that demands women be as small, quiet, and compliant as possible-writer and humorist Lindy West quickly discovered that she was anything but.
From a painfully shy childhood in which she tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her big body and even bigger opinions; to her public war with stand-up comedians over rape jokes; to her struggle to convince herself, and then the world, that fat people have value; and to her accidental activism and never-ending battle royale with Internet trolls, Lindy narrates her life with a blend of humor and pathos that manages to make a trip to the abortion clinic funny and wring tears out of a story about diarrhea.
With inimitable good humor, vulnerability, and boundless charm, Lindy boldly shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect, and how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss, and walk away laughing. Shrill provocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps.
Book Review: Shrill – Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
Although I was aware that Lindy West was a prominent young feminist writer, I knew very little else about her and could barely even remember where I’d seen or read her work before. Lindy West, a zaftig feminist and award-winning writer, explores society’s innate discomfort with women’s bodies — especially, although not limited to, the heavy ones in this book of essays with a dollop of memoir thrown in for good measure.
The opening chapter of Shrill, where Lindy talks about the various female role models she had while growing up, made me laugh out loud multiple times. Lindy has a comedy background, which is on obvious display here; anyone operating under the delusion that feminists can’t be funny should stay away from Shrill by Lindy West if they don’t want their belief dispelled forever.
Admittedly, Shrill by Lindy West doesn’t sustain this level of humour throughout—given the topics Lindy takes on, that would be impossible. But it’s in the more serious parts of the book that its true value is revealed.
“Feminism is really just the long slow realization that the things you love hate you.”
Shrill by Lindy West is put together as a blend of memoir and opinion, as Lindy West recounts how she’s spent her life being scorned for her weight/size, but nevertheless got over any shyness about public speaking, got involved with stand-up comedy, and developed a thick-enough skin to tolerate the absolutely appalling trolling she receives in her current job as an opinion columnist.
Lindy West is a true crusader as she’s spent much of her working life taking on fatphobia and attempting to make male comedians understand why rape “jokes” just aren’t funny. This book could be “shrill,” that word all-too-often used to attempt to silence women who speak up for themselves. But I found it very funny, because she finds the humorous and the absurd in every situation or subject, even the most serious, and uses that humor to make sharp, well-analyzed, insightful points.
I was deeply impressed by Lindy’s tireless work to effect positive change, and equally impressed by her writing on personal topics such as her father’s death and her (mostly sad, then finally happy) love life.