Shrill is a series of essays/memoir about being a big, bold woman in a world that demands that we be small, quiet and perfect. Some chapters cover cultural issues from a personal perspective – the disrespect for and devaluing of non-skinny people, the repulsive comedy of rape culture, and the horror of abuse from internet trolls. And some chapters are straight-up memoir, sharing the stories of the author’s life. One of the more fascinating stories she shares is how she took on a public war with stand-up comedians over rape jokes – reading how comedians (and the public) justify the casual misogyny is compelling and, at the same time, quite horrifying.
I very much enjoyed this book. It was funny – VERY funny – and still horrible at times. However, reading it directly after Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist, I couldn’t help comparing the two books, and I have to say I didn’t like it as much. As I’m writing this, I’m really struggling to understand why. There are certainly similarities, but it’s a very different book. I wonder if it’s the humor and the boldness. Bad Feminist felt like an important book, and Shrill feels like… I take it less seriously. I can’t help but wonder if that’s coming out of me from the same cultural biases that horrify me – the biases against big, bold women.
I would absolutely recommend this book. Ms West is an extremely funny and engaging writer, and she manages a good balance between the serious topics she covers and her natural humor.