Review: Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman

Review: Shrill: Notes from a Loud WomanShrill: Notes from a Loud Woman on May 17th 2016
Pages: 260

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.

It’s been a few weeks since I read this book, so I hope I can do it justice in this review. I was excited to read this book and picked it up as an extra in my Book of the Month Club box. I guess the plus side is that I can’t complain too much for $9.99, plus I managed to sell it for $1.84. Conscience alert: I kind of felt like I was ripping off the kind folks at Decluttr.

I’d read rave reviews of this book. Perhaps if I were familiar with West’s work on Jezebel, I’d have known what I was getting myself into. In fact, I’m sure I must have read some of her work there at some point, but I rarely pay attention to the authors. Then again, maybe I’m wrong, as she does have  a very distinct voice…not that that’s in any way a bad thing.  West is crass, confident, brutally honest, and unapologetic for who she is. She states that this personality she has cultivated is the polar opposite of who she was as a child, and I think that’s a remarkable transformation.  I think these are, for the most part, admirable qualities, which is why I find it all the more dismaying that I simply could not get into this book.  I somehow feel that I am not her target audience with this particular diatribe. She has some salient points about certain topics, but the juxtaposition of seemingly every other chapter’s focus on her weight and the way it affects her life was just not something I was looking for. Perhaps that’s my own privilege showing, having never been an obese woman having to face these obstacles. Nonetheless, despite her humor and wit, I simply found it a chore to slug through this book.  I might be open to reading more of her work in the future, but I would hope that it flowed better and focused more on other topics, since she certainly has plenty to say. I truly hope West realizes she has an identity as a fierce, no-nonsense writer, and not, simply, as she states repeatedly in her book, “a fat woman.”


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