NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY: NPR, ESQUIRE, The LA Times, and NEWSWEEK WINNER OF THE STRANGER GENIUS AWARD Shrill is an uproarious memoir, a feminist rallying cry in a world that thinks gender politics are tedious and that women, especially feminists, can't be funny. Coming of age in a culture that demands women be as small, quiet, and compliant as possible--like a porcelain dove that will also have sex with you--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; 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.
Well, now I have. And, boy, did it not disappoint. In this volume she talks about her life, her family, and her relationships; about feminism; about comedy; about abortion; about online harassment; and about what it's like to be fat and to decide, after a lifetime of being told that your body is disgusting and you are unlovable because of it, that you just aren't going to quietly take that anymore. And it's all just amazing. West is so sharp and so smart, so willing to be loud and bold and firm in declaring her convictions, but also wonderfully thoughtful, reasonable, and deeply, deeply humane. And so funny. Parts of this made me laugh out loud. Like, a lot. Other parts made my heart hurt. Also a lot. Possibly a moment or two kind of made me do both at once. Like I said. Amazing.
I picked it up again on May 1, 2018 after seeing Lindy speak live, talking about “Yes, This Is a Witch Hunt. I’m a Witch and I’m Hunting You.” (Hilarious and poignant!)
This book is more memoir than I would expect from a collection of essays. (I say that despite the fact that this book is actually described as a memoir.) She discusses growing up large in a world that isn't okay with that (I can so relate), and when she decided to say fuck you to that nonsense. Her love of comedy, the misogyny rampant in comedy, and when she decided to say fuck you to that too. Losing her father, internet trolls, and the downs and up of her romantic life.
Lots of good stuff here and I'm glad I came back to it.
You Don’t Have To Be………
……..American to read this book but it is an advantage as the impact of some of the cultural references and names were lost on me. And I am someone who loves baseball and root beer and I can sing The Star Spangled Banner better than my own National Anthem! In fact I think I might have been an American in a previous life! But maybe past lives can’t prepare you for contemporary cyber America. And are things any different in the UK?
I doubt that this is a book I would have picked to read had not Real Readers sent me a copy to review but I am glad I have read it for it will stay with me for a long time. I cannot remember the last time I laughed so much I was unable to continue reading. I can still chuckle to myself as I remember those phrases that made me laugh. Equally it’s been a while since a book made me think as much as this one has and I confess to shedding a tear or two for the aggressive ignorance of so many people who lack the courage to do anything but hide behind the anonymity of the Internet. I loathe the term ‘trolls’ to describe these people but an accurate description probably contravenes any censorship laws. (I had toy trolls when I was a kid, with long hair and kindly faces. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld trolls aren’t threatening at all. )
This book is an often uncomfortable read. It can be seen as one woman’ monologue, a diatribe against prejudice and injustice amongst other things but it is also an autobiography of honesty and humanity. It may upset some peoples’ sensibilities for it is frank. Labelled as a ‘feminist;’ book I think it can be appreciated on wider levels.
Lindy West is a brave, brave woman who should never be defined by her physicality but by her wit and her intellect and the way that, as a wordsmith, she can combine those two qualities.
I first heard West on the This American Life radio program, where she presented a segment about meeting her internet troll. My daughter had already mentioned some of West’s work to me, and I began seeing her name more and more. Reading this book was a great way to understand her points of view, and has pointed me in some new directions to further my knowledge of current-day feminist issues.
And I am so glad I did. Lindy West writes in such an approachable way. She writes about her reactions to misogyny in comedy, and how confronting it has soured her on comedy ("Comedy, you broke my heart" hit me hard, because my life-long love, academia, recently broke mine, too). She wrote about the death of her father and all the recriminations she had for herself and all the false parallels to death she'd made before she confronted it. She writes about growing up fat, with all the fear of being worthless that comes with it. But I grew up thin--thinking I was just as worthless because my body wasn't "right," and trying hard to figure out how to do just that.
The acceptance and love and humor and grace she shows her own body are kindnesses I hope to be able to show my own--and others'. I can say that about all her stories: despite the despicable way she is treated daily, AFK (away from keyboard) and online, she has built a philosophy and persona and heart strong enough to take trolls head on, to confront a beloved institution (comedy) about an insidious problem is has (rape jokes), and even speak up to her boss. I think when many of us try to say we are hoping to find our voice, this is what we are hoping to find.
Also, while this book is hilarious, it is also chock full of potential triggers. Rape, death, disillusionment, abortion, and screwy periods are all covered frankly. They are all considered in a broader context, often through a very clear feminist lens, and with such a matter-of-fact way that seems foreign when talking about "women's issues." But she is helping to normalize them, to help by giving a script to women who are seeking ways of saying "Yes, it is possible to make a joke out of this, but you are making fun of me, not the topic, and you're doing so in a way that hurts me--which I don't think you want to do. Please stop" to so many aspects of their lives.
Lindy West is giving an excellent voice to the youngish feminists (3rd wave? Is that what we are now?) who want to be allowed to be in their bodies without constant threat or ridicule, and who want that for others, too. She recognizes her privilege often, and makes it a point to use that privilege to make changes that can help us all.
It is difficult to imagine anyone not finding Ms. West’s history compelling. She finds humor in the most painful of stories, but she does not use it to deflect her pain. Instead, she allows readers to see her pain and uses humor to lessen the blow as well as show her recovery from it. She uses that vulnerability to show others that we as women can survive. Not only that but that we should survive because when we do we win. Her ultimate message is that the bullies win when we stay quiet, when we submit to their expectations of us, when we fail to speak. When we find our voice, we win because we get them talking and talking is learning. It is a powerful message, and one that could not be more timely.
This message does come with a price, and Ms. West has most definitely paid that price. She has experienced pretty much all of the crap this shitty society of ours can throw at her. She had to learn to survive in a world that continues to attempt to shame her for her body size. She had to deal with those who look down their noses at her decision to have an abortion. She has had to fight for recognition in her relationship, in her work, and for her beliefs. She had to learn to shrug off the trolls. The fact that she doesn’t hide who she is, what she believes, or who she supports only serves to rally her opponents, and she had to learn not to care. The fact that she is able to explain all of this with grace is a testament to her inner strength.
I may not have known much about Ms. West when I started the audiobook, but now I do. Ms. West is a remarkable woman who is beautiful, intelligent, funny, and generous. She is a woman who wants to spare others her pain and who fights for those who cannot. She is a woman to watch and a woman to emulate. We could all use more Lindy Wests in our lives.
Quotes: "My first class seat wasn't a plus throne stuffed with Richard Branson's hair."
"You can't fix a problem by targeting its victims."
"You can't tell me there's no gender bias in an industry where "women aren't funny" is widely accepted as conventional wisdom."
To her father, presumably in heaven: "Go play chocolate badminton on a cloud with Jerry Orbach and your childhood cat."
"Trolls still waste my time and tax my mental health on a daily basis, but honestly, I don't wish them any pain. Their pain is what got us here in the first place."
Ms. West brings up some really awesome points on our culture, and how anonymity is becoming a thing of the past, when it comes to most things in our lives. As a writer, she used to have that option, and it's becoming harder to only be seen as words.
This opens us up to bullying based not on opinion or merit, but on superficial aspects.
This book addresses her life as a woman, and an outspoken one. How people will flip to insults, from intellectual discourse on a topic, when they find you're not a man with an opinion. It's weird, and as a culture, we should be examining our own attitudes, and not blaming women for simply being *visible* people.
Well, West appears to have a few ideas about that and some other things. I love her brand of feminism and her willingness to do the things despite knowing that the trolls will come. Keeping my little safe and supportive zone of feminism is great and all but I know I will need to get out there in front one day. When I'm ready. I've never been an out in front kind of person though. I'm more of work behind the scenes person and there's always work to do there....
Anyway, Mindy West is very much a front lines against patriarchy woman. I love the whole thing about stand up comedy. I always loved stand up too and have gone through periods when its been harder to stomach and had people to avoid. I've never been one for making fun of the unfortunate and totally support West's concepts of how comedy is supposed to talk truth to power. That was how I always felt about it too.
Her talk of her abortion is interesting and I'm not sure if it is because it makes me uncomfortable or despite that it makes me uncomfortable. Personally, I'm pro-choice which sounds like it should be obvious in some circles but there are tons of feminists who are against abortion. I appreciate the women who have written about their abortions in their memoirs. It allows others to see that this is not a thing that happens to only one kind of woman and in only one kind of situation.
The whole thing with her dad and the troll is just crazy. I've thought about it a few times since finishing the book and I just can't get over it. If you follow her articles than you already know about this whole episode, but I had no idea and was just floored by the whole thing. What happened was terrible but her reaction was amazing and rather inspirational.
Altogether, the book inspired my feminism. I want to live more out there life she does but haven't been able to bring myself to do it. Still, people like her inch me out there ever so slightly, one book at a time.
Lindy West is a fantastic writer based in Seattle. Locals first got to know her writing in The Stranger, our funky weekly paper. Most other folks know her as a writer for The Guardian. She uses her wit and intellect to discuss issues like being a fat woman existing in the world, the prevalence and support of rape culture in stand-up comedy, and the need for access to reproductive health care, including abortion.
Ms. West has a way with words that I admire. She can take a serious issue and find a way to make it funny without diminishing it at all. For example, in the very first chapter of this book she lists all of the fat female role models she had growing up. They’re basically limited to characters from Disney films, and I think only one is human. It’s a funny chapter that drives home the fucked-up ness of the issue. Sample quote: “A League of Their Own is a classic family comedy that mines the age-old question: What if women … could do things?”
Every chapter is an essay that could stand on its own, although they connect really well to each other. I found myself marking them up with notes even more than usual. I did skim one of the sections of the book. I read it, but REALLY quickly. The chapter involves a discussion about rape jokes, and includes a recounting of Ms. West going on W. Kamau Bell’s show to “debate” the issue with another (male) comedian. She is right, he is not, and it’s just so frustrating to read the willful ignorance that some people employ to not have to make any adjustments to their worldviews. I just couldn’t devote the time to it that I should have. But I will, some day.
I wish I’d had this book when I was younger, and plan to gift it to my nieces when they are older. I also know that I will be re-reading this book regularly in the years to come.
But there is also good stuff about watching her father die. I may not be the standard audience for this, but I have a mother, a sister, a wife and a daughter and between the gags there was real value here.
I've been fat my whole life, but I actually found it hard to warm up to the book during the parts about obesity. But West finishes strong as she takes on rape culture and the misogyny of stand-up comedians and internet trolls. It's all very outrageous and depressing, and one only needs to check out the comments on any story about a female celebrity on the Fox News website to see how far we still have to go as a society.
(Yes, I browse both CNN and Fox every morning, fascinated with the contrast of which stories they are pushing or the slants on stories they both cover. There's a study to be made of the stories where Fox disallows comments altogether, knowing their audience would take the trolling to levels that even Fox could not justify hosting.)
Short, brilliant collection of autobiographical essays that are unapologetic about who they are and embracing identity in the face of a world who would tear it down. Different topics will resonate with different readers (obviously), but the one that personally struck a chord was on her abortion- while every woman's experience is different, I also felt that while my actual abortion was pretty mundane, making a specific choice in my life was and is empowering. I'd have to look to old livejournal entries for specifics, but definitely had some "This is my life and my choice; who do you think you are to tell me what I should've done" feels in the aftermath that were like life preservers out of my normal depression pits.
What I love about this collection is that Lindy puts herself out there and shares the reality of what she faces as an overweight woman in society, and then goes on to explain how our current societal outlook and culture is to blame for the shitty behavior of people. I feel like we see a lot of theories behind why women are treated so poorly by men (e.g. they are seen as objects rather than people, so they are catcalled more often, etc.), but what we need are brave women to be like: this happened to me, this is how it made me feel, and this is why it needs to change. I think a lot of people reading this book are going to realize that they have experienced similar situations and are going to better understand how we can go about dealing with those situations in order to affect change in our culture. And what’s wonderful about this book is that Lindy calls people out in such a way that left me both angry and ready to take action, yet also amused and laughing at the ridiculous situations life puts us in. I don’t know how she does it, but she does, and it is inspiring.
I devoured this book. I love how it’s written in short chapters that I can very much put down when I need to get to work or help make dinner, but it’s a joy to pick back up again and read more about what Lindy has to say. I’ve already recommended it to pretty much everyone I know (I keep begging Andrew to read it NOW), so I’ll recommend it to anyone who’s reading this right now. It’s intelligent, funny, thought-provoking, and simply wonderful. Read it. Now. And then we can talk about it.
Originally posted on Going on to the Next .