Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
Published by Hachette Books on May 17th, 2016
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In early 2015, Lindy West confronted one of her most horrific internet trolls on This American Life. But long before that confrontation, West wrote her way into the public eye by taking on rape jokes and fat shaming. (She also wrote about the outfits in Troop Beverly Hills, awful commercials, and re-watching Garden State, just to drop a few of my personal faves.)
In her new book, Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, Lindy West digs deep into her own experiences with sexism, fat shaming, and harassment (in hilariously titled essays, like “You’re So Brave for Wearing Clothes and Not Hating Yourself!” and “Why Fat Lady So Mean to Baby Men”) while also touching on her childhood and the recent loss of her father. Each essay in Shrill feels like a vital read, particularly in an election cycle that adds fuel to the garbage fire of internet comments and online harassment. While West fights against the bigotry that stokes that fire, she also highlights the importance of seeing humanity—even the humanity of internet trolls.
“This story isn’t prescriptive. It doesn’t mean that anyone is obliged to forgive people who abuse them, or even that I plan on being cordial and compassionate to every teenage boy who pipes up to call me a blue whale. But, for me, it’s changed the timbre of my online interactions. […] It’s hard to feel hurt or frightened when you’re flooded with pity. It’s hard to be cold or cruel when you remember it’s hard to be a person.”
Shrill had me rolling in giggle fits on one page, furious with rage on the next, and reaching for tissues by the end. And isn’t that how life is? All those emotions are wrapped up in one little package made for a more than perfect way to spend the weekend.
I have to admit, I’ve been waiting for the right book to pair with this movie, which is a favorite of mine, and Shrill is the perfect match. After a major breakup, Donna randomly hooks up with Max, who she meets in a bar following one of her stand-up shows. Donna ends up pregnant from the one-night stand and decides to have an abortion while still dealing with the fallout from her previous relationship and the loss of her job.
It sounds more than a little bleak, but the brilliance of Obvious Child is in its humor. And how incredibly real it feels. Like Lindy West in Shrill, Donna doesn’t agonize over her abortion, but she does struggle with paying for it and deciding whether or not to tell Max. Jenny Slate and Jake Lacy (you’ll recognize both if you watched the last season of Girls) are perfect and the movie touches on a number of the issues highlighted by Shrill in a similarly hilarious way.