By Lindy West
My rating: 4 stars
Goodreads Rating: 4.17
Genre: Feminist Memoir
Date Published: May 17th 2016
Format Read: Audiobook
Goodreads Summary: 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.
So apparently 2016 is the year where I start agreeing with feminist takes, as evinced by the last two weeks of reviews, and now this one. Lindy West’s memoir is about what it is like to grow up as a fat person, and more specifically a fat comedian. She manages to integrate her own personal experiences seamlessly with conversation about greater problems that plague our society.
In a lot of ways, I think the reason this book stands up better than the other books I read is that the issues West discusses are still very much real issues in a way that being allowed to wear flats instead of heels is just… not. We still live in a society where comedians can make rape jokes (or transphobic jokes, or homophobic jokes, or racist jokes) and claim that it’s okay as long as it’s in the name of comedy. We are still surrounded by fatphobic messaging regarding fat people and their health, and although the body positivity movement has risen to greater prominence, there is still very real discrimination happening both in the doctor’s office and in the rest of the world.
These two topics were at the center of West’s memoir not because she woke up one morning and decided that it would be a good thing to write about, but because she has been fighting these battles for her entire life. Yes, all fat people and all women are to some extent fighting this battle. But West stood up to her former employer regarding fatphobia. She stood up to male comics who thought rape jokes were funny. It was incredibly cool to see everything that she’s been doing, and to hear it from her perspective.
West is also undeniably funny. She manages to write in such an honest and humorous way that these big topics don’t seem quite so big while she’s talking about them. This book felt accessible and interesting, and while I didn’t think I’d enjoy it much going in, I was hooked from the start.
If you’re going to read an older feminist memoir book this year, I would HIGHLY recommend it be this one.