There’s so much of everything in Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman. I started the book in bed and laughed so hard while I was reading that my partner asked if everything was okay.
I tried to explain that I was fine, just reading about the disparity in size/musculature between Disney parents (West was comparing the “diamond-cut abs” of King Triton with the aged roundness of Mrs. Potts)… with tears of mirth streaming down my face.
A few hours of reading later, I was crying for entirely different reasons. I was reading about the troll who harassed Lindy on Twitter by pretending to be her father– who had just died.
I’m emotionally armored, but “dead father” is still an open wound. This makes its way into my fiction and memoirs, even my jokes. It’s what I dream about.
Even if this isn’t your grief, the story will break your heart. I can’t even imagine this kind of torment on top of the pain of losing my father. I didn’t know how Lindy West was still standing.
More than surviving this act of hate; Lindy wrote about it– and the troll apologized to her. They did an interview together on This American Life, talking about what led him to this behavior and how he realized her humanity and couldn’t torment her anymore. It’s surprising how surprising people are, both in their awfulness and their kindness. That’s what it is to be truly human, awful and kind. The anonymous troll discovered Lindy’s humanity and rediscovered his own.
So much of Shrill is about Lindy West’s fight for the acknowledgment of her humanity (and the humanity of others). She has always navigated a world that has attempted to deny her humanity for being a woman, for being a person of size, for refusing to back down, for seeing herself as valuable– and she is fighting for the humanity of women, for people of size, for people of color, for everyone who has been marginalized. She writes:
“What if I was wrong all along– what if this was all a magic trick, and I could just decide I was valuable and it would be true? Why, instead had I left that decision in the hands of strangers who hated me? Denying people access to value is an incredibly insidious form of emotional violence, one that our culture wields aggressively and liberally to keep marginalized groups small and quiet.”
Shrill is not just humorous and poignant, it’s also relatable and deliciously smart. It’s not just the stories; it’s the telling. West’s anecdotes are hilarious and heartbreaking and wonderful. It is a delicious pleasure to savor her crystal-clear writing, symmetrical and succinct. There is nothing superfluous about this book.
There were so many times when I would jab my finger at a line and say “Yes! This!”, experiencing a string of epiphanies as I read. The book beautifully blends memoir and essay to convey what Lindy West believes and how she came to her answers, led by the events of her life and distilled by her reasoning. This is the manifesto that everyone should have on their shelf alongside Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist.
TWs for Shrill include: abortion, body-shaming, death, harassment (trolling, doxxing), misogyny, and rape