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Shrill by Lindy West
Essays

Shrill

Debut
We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Lindy West, on your first book!

by Lindy West

Quick take

Takes the shallow style of Internet comment boards and harnesses them into an original, intimate voice. She manages to be self-righteous but also self-deprecating.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_LOL

    LOL

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NowAMovie

    Now a movie

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Writerlife

    Writer's life

Aidy Bryant stars in the television series Shrill

Why I love it

Joel Stein
Guest Judge

One of the reasons I read is to learn what it's like to be someone very different than I am without actually going through the unpleasantness of talking to someone very different than I am. So I've been fascinated by Lindy West, an overweight, feminist writer who loves wizards and all-things Disney and spends so much time on the Internet that it is as real to her as the not-Internet.

I imagined that spending time in such a person's head would be tedious. But it's hilarious. And delightful. And enlightening. Best of all, I finished Shrill a little less judgy than I began. Toward fat people on airplanes. Toward people terrorized by anonymous Twitter users. Toward people who like wizards.

Most surprising was how relatable West's stories are. They add up to a story of someone who went from being too afraid to express herself to someone who embraces the "shrill" label with which she was saddled. Her writing is ALL CAPS struuuuuung out words, exclamation points, cultural references and talking about her friends as if they're famous; she takes the shallow style of Internet comment boards and harnesses them into an original, intimate voice. She manages to be self-righteous but also self-deprecating. I didn't know that fat people come out of the closet, but Lindy has a moment when she came out – when she was comfortable telling people she's fat. And I didn't know it could be so emotional and so funny.

I first heard West on This American Life confront a troll who tormented her by pretending to be her recently deceased father, and it was brave, kind and funny – all the things that trolling someone as someone's dead dad is not. I've seen her read her stories in person, when her experience as a local standup comic helped her. But I did not imagine she could keep that level of honesty going when recounting more mundane stories about work, dating, her period. Like Gloria Steinem, Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer, West makes feminism funny, which makes it more approachable. I have rarely wanted to spend more time with someone who is yelling at me.

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Synopsis

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.

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Member thoughts

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2298 ratings
  • 53% Love
  • 36% Like
  • 9% Dislike
    Essays
    • Calypso
    • Trick Mirror
    • Fair Play
    • What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker
    • Thick