Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman

Lindy West

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman
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Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman

Lindy West

Guardian columnist Lindy West wasn’t always loud. It’s difficult to believe she was once a nerdy, overweight teen who wanted nothing more than to be invisible. Fortunately for women everywhere, along the road she found her voice - and how she found it!

That cripplingly shy girl who refused to make a sound, somehow grew up to be one of the loudest, shrillest, most fearless feminazis on the internet, making a living standing up for what’s right instead of what’s cool.

In Shrill, Lindy recounts how she went from being the butt of people’s jokes, to telling her own brand of jokes - ones that carry with them with a serious message and aren’t at someone else’s expense. She reveals the obstacles and stereotyping she’s had to overcome to make herself heard, in a society that doesn’t think women (especially fat women and feminists) are or can be funny.

She also tackles some of the most burning issues of popular culture today, taking a frank and provocative look at racism, oppression, fat-shaming, twitter-trolling and even rape culture, unpicking the bullshit and calling out unpalatable truths with conviction, intelligence and a large dose of her trademark black humour.

Review

You might not be familiar with Lindy West’s name, but if you have even a passing familiarity with the internet you’re probably acquainted with her writing. Her eminently shareable columns deal with topics as diverse as body image, internet trolling, feminism, comedy, and why Love Actually is a terrible movie (she and I actually disagree there). Caitlin Moran calls her ‘Part of the Lady Mount Rushmore that includes Amy Schumer, Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman and Amy Poehler’, but for me Shrill eclipses the offerings from her fellow Lady-Mount-Rushmorites. It’s searingly funny, but never mean (which is a difficult feat to pull off), and self-deprecating without being disparaging.

West’s incredible observations of the world around her are succinct and extraordinarily honest. From her early childhood attempts to identify who she, as a fat girl, got to have as a female role model (The Queen of Hearts? Miss Piggy? Ursula The Seawitch?) to the grief of losing her beloved father to cancer, and then having to deal with an internet troll assuming her father’s likeness in order to abuse her on Twitter, Shrill is candid, real, and heartfelt.

Each chapter is a self contained essay, but there’s an overarching narrative to the book. The chapter on puberty segues beautifully into an exploration of body image, and her experience standing up against the abusive fat-shaming she witnessed as a writer for The Stranger informs her response to the ‘Can rape jokes be funny?’ debate that put her in the frontline of misogynist abuse online a few years later.

West doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable issues – she’s upfront about everything from her first period to her abortion – but she’s never heavy-handed in trying to push an agenda on the reader. She made me laugh. She made me cry. And she made me think. And that’s the best thing you can say about a book, surely.


Lian Hingee is the digital marketing manager for Readings.

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