If Shrill isn’t already on your summer reading list, you may need to shift your priorities. I mean, the book has been out for a week, so, seriously, get on it.
When I attended Lindy West’s first reading on her book tour for Shrill last week, she mentioned that she wanted “think pieces” about her work because with those, a person learns what works but also what they can fix.
So, I thought about it and decided I’d try that approach with my little review that, admittedly, probably only two people will read (Hi Mom! Hi random person who thought this was something else!). So, here goes.
In the first sections, the book is hilariously funny and I immediately worried because I wasn’t sure how West could sustain that level of funny. Well, she didn’t. Darn her, she took it at exactly the right moment down a more serious path. It was a perfect shift so she can’t fix that.
But then she kept it a balance of serious and funny for several chapters and I thought, hmmm, is she going to lose the tension here? And whamo, just like that, salty drops of liquid burst from my eye sockets and yet again, she’d achieved a perfect transition and I was left sniffling as I dried the pages of her book. Can’t fix that either.
I am pleased to tell you, however, that I did find one problem. On page 177, second half of paragraph three, she writes “Hari wrote for the show;…” Well, I’ll have you know that by page 177, I’d forgotten who the hell Hari was. So there.
Yeah, that’s it. Truth is, this book is excellent. I would like every woman I care about to read it because I think it will be a salve for her soul. And I would like every other person to also read it because I am certain they will learn something meaningful. I would particularly like the men in my life to read it because I believe it will help you better understand the importance of language and how hurtful words can be, even when that is not the intent.
West takes us on her journey in dealing with issues like body image, social responsibility in comedy, internet trolls, grief and love, in a manner that even if we haven’t had these same experiences, we feel included. Her writing is so fluid and accessible that she brings the universals of the human condition to the surface throughout.
I was particularly moved by sections that evoked emotions around shame that I’ve long tried to suppress and yet was grateful when she followed up with lighter passages using her well honed comedic timing to save you from giving up or crumbling from the visceral depictions she includes.
Perhaps the most important element, however, was that she left me with the key message that what we do in life matters.
What Lindy West has done in her life matters tremendously because she has helped to shift our collective thinking on so many issues – fat shaming, rape culture and abortion, to name a few – and the world (at least my world) is a better place for her actions. Through documenting this work in her memoir, West reminds us that we can all do our part, even if in the tiniest of ways, to make the world better – safer – for one another.
If you don’t already, you should also follow her work in GQ and The Guardian. You should also head over to tumblr and start reading the remarkable essays on the blog West started in 2014 called I Believe You | It’s Not Your Fault. (You might even find one by yours truly there.) Also do yourself a favor and listen to her episode of This American Life. I truly believe she is one of the most important voices of our time.
So, again, add Shrill to your reading list and put it at the top. It is a quick, entertaining read, but also one that may either validate emotions you too may have tried to suppress or at least help you to see new perspectives on how things could be better for all of us.
If nothing else, you’ll laugh. A lot.