REVIEW: Shrill by 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.

“Please don’t forget: I am my body. When my body gets smaller, it is still me. When my body gets bigger, it is still me. There is not a thin woman inside me, awaiting excavation. I am one piece.”

I was only vaguely aware of Lindy West before listening to this book but I now adore her. I decided to read this after hearing so many good reviews on Litsy. Listening to the audio version, read by Lindy, really brought the book to life. It was like having an intimate conversation with an intelligent, forthright, and hilarious woman. Lindy discusses a wide range of topical issues, from abortion to fat-acceptance, from feminism and misogyny in comedy, to trolls. Each issue is explored in an accessible way that leaves you agreeing with everything she says. 

“For me, the process of embodying confidence was less about convincing myself of my own worth and more about rejecting and unlearning what society had hammered into me.”

 Lindy has changed the cultural landscape over the last decade. She’s advocated for fat-acceptance and changed the way that society blindly fat-shamed people. Lindy has also confronted trolls and she once broadcast an interview with a troll who pretended to be her deceased father. Lindy must be the only woman in the world to receive an apology from a troll. One of her biggest successes was her challenging the prevalence of rape culture and misogyny in comedy routines. After fighting for years to discourage this casual acceptance of rape jokes, Lindy changed the minds of many top male comedians, and it’s now much harder for someone to tell a rape joke without being challenged – all thanks to Lindy. 

“The ‘perfect body’ is a lie. I believed in it for a long time, and I let it shape my life, and shrink it—my real life, populated by my real body. Don’t let fiction tell you what to do.”

I would whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone. It will challenge how you think about the world and force you to question long-held assumptions. If you have the opportunity, listen to the audiobook version as Lindy is a brilliant narrator.

Listen to this on audiobook, for a hilarious and thought-provoking experience.

(Amazon | Book Depository | Audible | Goodreads)

About the Author

Lindy West is a columnist at The Guardian, a contributor to This American Life, and a freelance writer whose work focuses on feminism, social justice, humor, and body image. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Cosmopolitan, GQ, Vulture, Jezebel, The Stranger, and others. She is the founder of I Believe You, It’s Not Your Fault, an advice blog for teens, as well as the reproductive rights destigmatization campaign #ShoutYourAbortion. 

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