In case you haven’t encountered her on the internet, Lindy West is a writer and comedian who battles trolls–the kind that dwell on Twitter instead of beneath bridges. She’s also an audaciously loud, unapologetically fat woman in a world that prefers its women to be quiet and thin.
I identified with a lot of what West wrote about in Shrill. Her lifelong struggle with body image issues, her journey to find her voice as a writer, and–most recently–her incredible screw-up of a freelance project. Today, I admitted defeat on a project I never should have taken on, but I still haven’t screwed up as badly as West did when she was hired to write a press release for the band Spoon.
West was a geek kid who grew into a funny young woman. She once dreamed of slaying dragons, but now her bravery takes the form of frankly and publicly discussing issues that most of us would be hesitant to even whisper about in familiar rooms. Shrill is part memoir, part fat feminist manifesto, and runs the gamut from hilarious to heartbreaking. Sometimes in the same sentence.
I listened to the audiobook version, read by West, and although her vocal performance isn’t the most dynamic, the book is so personal that I couldn’t imagine someone else reading it. The downside to being familiar with West’s work beforehand was that I’d already heard several of the stories. I don’t believe she recycled content from her previously published articles–though I might be wrong about that–but she revisited some of the highlights of her career. A big chunk of the book is devoted to her public feud with the male-dominated comedy scene about rape jokes, and later she writes about confronting the internet troll who created an account using her recently deceased father’s identity to torment West. I remembered reading about both of those stories in the past couple of years, but West contextualizes them here within the larger story of her life.
If you’re looking for a scholarly work on feminism or the fat acceptance movement, Shrill isn’t it. If, on the other hand, you’re in the mood for a clever and poignant memoir by a proudly loud woman, then click the link below to check it out.