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Shrill: Women Are Funny, It's Okay to Be Fat, and Feminists Don't Have to Be Nice

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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.

256 pages, Hardcover

First published May 17, 2016

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About the author

Lindy West

7 books2,731 followers
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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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,437 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,943 reviews291k followers
May 25, 2018
Of all the feminist non-fiction books I've had on my to-read list, this one was calling to me the least. I'm not sure why, as I didn't even really know what it was about outside what the title told me. I had also never heard of the author before reading it (though I now realize I had actually read a couple of her articles in the past). BUT I started reading this yesterday evening and stayed up late until I'd finished it.

West has a really engaging conversational writing style. She swears, she uses funny footnotes, she admits to some of the most embarrassing things that have ever happened to her. I imagine the latter was therapeutic and, in many ways, empowering. If you admit the most humiliating things you've ever done, if you say the most creative insults about yourself before anyone else can, what has anyone got to hold over you?
“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.”

While this sells itself as being about a "loud" woman, I'd say it's more about being a fat woman. Lindy West claims her fatness in this book, rejects condescending "kind" words like "big", and smashes all the arguments that concerned thin people come up with.

She kind of gets to the root of something I've always wondered about, which is: why do you fucking care? This can apply to a number of things. Like, okay, you think being fat is unhealthy, or you think being gay is wrong and trans people are going to hell, but... so fucking what? Mind your own damn business! I've never understood the need people feel to impose their concern on others who have never asked for it.

I also really enjoyed West's perspective on comedy and, especially, rape jokes. I'm glad she acknowledged the limitations of the "punching up" argument, and instead offered an interesting take on how a person can successfully tell a rape joke without just being a misogynistic asshole. I'm someone who feels myself getting angry when someone even says the term "rape joke" so I was surprised to find myself convinced by her argument.

Overall, this is an informative, thought-provoking and actually really FUN book. West smashes the patriarchy and fatphobia, all while telling jokes about Disney movies and pop culture. It's really effective.

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Profile Image for Sarah Andersen.
Author 18 books7,877 followers
July 19, 2017
I'm a cartoonist and I face extensive online harassment, so I picked up this book in the hopes that Lindy's writing about her own experiences would help me my grasp my own.

"Men, you will never understand. Women, I hope I helped. Comedy, you broke my heart."

Thanks Lindy, you did help.
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
695 reviews3,258 followers
July 5, 2017
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

Society has long held women to near-impossible standards of beauty and urged them to remain quiet and reserved. Outspoken women, who champion women’s rights and advocate the importance of feminism, are often labeled with a slew of derogatory terms with negative associations. Lindy West – brave feminist, bold writer, and delightful humorist – was never destined for a life of submissive silence. In her savvy memoir, West recounts her transition from a shy child who was ashamed of her body to a successful woman who loves her body and isn’t afraid to be loud.

I felt something start to unclench deep inside me. What if my body didn’t have to be a secret? 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.

No topic is off limits in West’s memoir, and humor is always close at hand. She opens with an amusing examination of the weighty existential question adults love to toss at children: What do you want to be when you grow up?

The answer was ballerina, or, for a minute, veterinarian, as I had been erroneously led to believe that “veterinarian” was the grown-up term for “professional animal-petter.” I would later learn, crestfallen and appalled, that it’s more a term for “touching poo all the time featuring intermittent cat murder,” so the plan was abandoned. (The fact that ANY kid wants to be a veterinarian is bananas, by the way – whoever does veterinarian medicine’s PR among preschool-aged children should be working in the fucking White House.)

Whether she’s writing about abortion, America’s obsession with female thinness, or her ailing father’s battle with cancer, West comes across as candid and genuine. She begins her memoir with amusing stories before diving into more serious topics like the dangerous precedent set by comedians casually telling rape jokes and the tragic consequences of internet trolling and fat shaming.

Her words are a rallying cry for activists and feminists. Some may find her words offensive, uncomfortable, or difficult to accept, but she makes no apology for plainly stating painful truths. Some readers, whose thoughts align with West’s, will find themselves nodding considerably; while others are liable to find their worldviews challenged and will, therefore, find West’s memoir to be a thoughtful provocation.

There’s a difference between church groups boycotting JCPenny because JCPenny put a gay couple in their catalog and gay people boycotting Chick-fil-a because Chick-fil-a donated millions of dollars to groups working to strip gay people of rights and protections. Gay people wearing shawl-collar half-zip ecru sweaters does not oppress Christians. Christians turning their gay children out on the streets, keeping gay spouses from sitting at each other’s deathbeds, and casting gay people as diseased predators so that it’s easier to justify beating and murdering them does oppress gay people.

While West tackles feminism, misogyny, internet trolling, abortion, relationships and the shortage of “young, funny, capable, strong, good fat girls” in television, movies, video games, and books, the topic of fatness permeates everything she writes. West embraces the word fat with a refreshing sense of confidence and empowered self-assurance, as evidenced by the time she went head-to-head with an apologetic internet troll who had previously taken trolling to an absurdly new low .

His voice was soft, tentative. He was clearly as nervous as I was. “Well,” he said, “it revolved around one issue that you wrote about a lot which was your being heavy – the struggles that you had being a woman of size, or whatever the term may be.”

I cut in. I hate euphemisms. What the fuck is a “woman of size,” anyway? Who doesn’t have a size. “You can say fat. That’s what I say.”

“Fat. Okay, fat.”

Funny, poignant, and personal, Shrill showcases a powerhouse female taking some of society’s worst behaviors by the ear and dragging them into the limelight for a proper spanking.
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,329 followers
August 29, 2016
Lindy West doesn't come across as shrill in Shrill but as really smart, funny and gutsy. This worked really well as an Audiobook. I had never heard of West before reading Julie's excellent review, which got me curious. Shrill is what essentially amounts to a collection of personal essays. West is a proud outspoken feminist. She writes about many topics, including her extreme shyness as a kid, her parents and upbringing, her battles with herself and others to change perspectives on what it means to have a big body and her battle with male comedians to tone down the prevalence of rape jokes. I love West's candid funny fearless smart voice. I love the way she skilfully and cleverly calls foul foul and an ass an ass. I am at least a generation older than West, and I'm excited to see smart young women like her reinvigorate the concept of what it can mean to be a feminist. My guess is that there are a few Lindy Wests out there who have popped up over the last few years while I wasn't paying enough attention. But all the better if her message and gutsiness aren't earth shatteringly original. It gives me hope for the world my teenage daughter is growing up in.
Profile Image for Kelli.
844 reviews391 followers
February 7, 2018
I don’t want to have another fucking conversation with another fucking woman about what she’s eating or not eating or regrets eating or pretends to not regret eating to mask the regret.

(OMG, Lindy! You are speaking my language. I don’t want to have those conversations either...ever a-fucking-gain! I am so over all of it: filtered pictures on Instagram, Fakebook, Crossfit, competitive weight loss groups, narcissism, before and after photos, pictures of salad, underwear & sports bra selfies. I just can’t! When did we go from spending time hiking/biking/swimming because we like it to “going to the gym, hoping to stream an extra workout at home before I go train for a half marathon.” When did talking about diet and working out become the only conversation?)

This is the most quotable book I’ve ever read or heard. I listened to the audio, then grabbed the hardcover at the library. Rather than say too much here, I will let the quotes sink in and speak for themselves.

Women matter. Women are half of us. When you raise every women to believe that we are insignificant, that we are broken, that we are sick, that the only cure is starvation and restraint and smallness; when you pit women against one another, keep a shackled by shame and hunger, obsessing over our flaws rather than our power and potential; when you leverage all of that to sap our money and our time—that moves the rudder of the world. It steers humanity told conservatism in the walls of the narrow interesting man, and he keeps us adrift in waters where women’s safety and humanity are secondary to men’s pleasure and convenience.

That was on page 19. I already knew this was a 5 star book. To me, the above is a mike drop statement, but Lindy West isn’t a mike drop kind of women. She stays for the conversation, stands up for what she believes, and she does so with wit, respect, and intelligence. This book of essays addresses a whole slew of terrifically important issues. It is the perfect combination of ferocity and vulnerability. This woman has my deepest respect. I was very drawn to the stories about her interaction with her fat shaming boss, her crusade against rape jokes and facing her worst Internet troll, but there was much to appreciate and ponder in almost every essay. I will do my best to get this book into the hands of as many people as I can. Her voice is valuable, sensible, empowering, and sorely needed in today’s world.
Though I was less enamoured with two of the essays, this is still for me 5 stars.

Other quotes I found brilliant:

Don’t trust anyone who promises you a new life. Pick-up artists, lifestyle gurus, pyramid-scheme face cream evangelists, Weight Watchers coaches: These people make a living off of your failures. If their products lived up to their promise, they’d be out of a job.

I reject the notion that thinness is the goal, that thin = better—that I am an unfinished thing and that my life can really start when I lose weight.

You can’t fix a problem by targeting its victims.

Feminists don’t single out rape jokes because rape is “worse” than other crimes—we single them out because we live in a culture that actively strives to shrink the definition of sexual assault; that casts stalking behaviors as romance; blames victims for wearing the wrong clothes, walking through the wrong neighborhood, or flirting with the wrong person; bends over backwards to excuse boys-will-be-boys misogyny; makes emotional and social costs of reporting rape prohibitively high; pretends that false accusations are a more dire problem than actual assaults; elects officials who tell rape victims that their sexual violation was “god’s plan”; and convicts in less than 5 percent of rape cases that go to trial.
Profile Image for Regina.
1,136 reviews2,840 followers
April 10, 2021
At the tail end of 2020, I listened to Lindy West’s self-narrated “$hit Actually” audiobook and laughed all my pandemic+politics-induced cares away. I then turned to Hulu and watched the comedy series “Shrill” that’s based on her first book.

Naturally then I had to read it (or listen to the audio version, to be more specific). While "$hit Actually" was a lighthearted skewering of modern movies, “Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman" is described by West in her Acknowledgements as her “fat feminist abortion manifesto.” Yeeeaaaahhhhh, not a whole lot to laugh about there. While the books share the same creative voice, the content is quite different.

Lindy West’s bio describes her as a writer whose work focuses on feminism, social justice, body image and humor. “Shrill” is heavy on the first three elements, light on the fourth. From the blurb: "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.” Odds are that reading that sentence alone will give you an indication if this book is right for you. I personally did not shed one diarrhea story tear.

Still, I’m all for giving her a platform for the important topics she illuminates. While I cringed through a lot of this particular book, she has me in her audience. At some point I will get to her follow up, “The Witches Are Coming” and whatever else she publishes in the future.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
909 reviews13.8k followers
October 26, 2020
2020 is the year of reading all the books on my tbr in order of what i've owned the longest, and i'm not gonna lie, i almost just got rid of this one because i bought it in 2016/2017 at the height of me being into a white feminist phase. but what i thought was going to be a book about women's voices and a more academic discussion was actually a memoir so much closer to my heart than i anticipated because the writer is fat. this book evoked tears and i had to grab a pencil as i read because there were so many important lines. i've been really focused on dieting and feeling guilty about my size after seeing a doctor this year in May who told me I need to lose weight, so this book was really grounding and reaffirmed that my occasional self-hatred is unfounded. also, this book was so genuinely funny and made me laugh aloud in ways i NEVER experience in books. i would love to read more from lindy.
Profile Image for Beverly.
784 reviews277 followers
December 6, 2021
Shrill she may be (I don't think so) but she is definitely smart, funny, and kind. Lindy West is wonderful. This memoir deals with lots of painful moments; her beloved Dad's death, her abortion, trolling from thousands of sick men on the Internet, but it left me feeling exuberant and life affirming. Lindy is a fat woman, she calls herself that. It is just another aspect of who she is. She is sick of all the fat jokes and the rape jokes, and the "you're too fat to rape" jokes, like being raped is a validation or a prize for beautiful, thin women.

I am so glad there are brave women out there who are willing to stand up for the rest of us. Lindy West is one of those.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,423 reviews8,304 followers
August 28, 2017
In 2017, society still expects women to keep quiet, move aside for men, and comply to the rules. Lindy West's courageous and humorous memoir, Shrill, details her journey in breaking free from these expectations as a successful stand-up comic, popular internet writer, and fat woman. She blends the personal and the political well, moving from how she developed her love of comedy to how she confronted sexist bosses and internet trolls. West addresses an array of unpleasant subjects - misogyny, rape culture, fatphobia, etc. - with admirable self-awareness and an important thesis: we must stop men from harassing women, and we must empower women to speak up against this harassment. The jokes she injects into several sections of this book speak to the power and precision of her voice, that she can both view herself with self-deprecating humor and still slay the patriarchy with her insights. One of the many quotes I loved:

“Women matter. Women are half of us. When you raise every woman to believe that we are insignificant, that we are broken, that we are sick, that the only cure is starvation and restraint and smallness; when you pit women against one another, keep us shackled by shame and hunger, obsessing over our flaws rather than our power and potential; when you leverage all of that to sap our money and our time—that moves the rudder of the world. It steers humanity toward conservatism and walls and the narrow interests of men, and it keeps us adrift in waters where women’s safety and humanity are secondary to men’s pleasure and convenience.”

I appreciated so much about Shrill, and out of all of its stellar qualities, I really connected with West's honesty about her struggle. She writes about how, as a fat, opinionated woman on the internet, she receives so much toxic vitriol from men who cannot stomach the idea of a large, outspoken woman sharing her brilliant ideas and cultivating success in the world. West articulates how she overcomes men's discriminatory views toward women, and she also shares the pain and heartbreak these men made her feel. Her willingness to expose this deep reservoir of emotion within herself moved me, and I could not help but cheer for her as she turned her sorrow into art and activism time and time again. In 2017, the era of toxic masculinity and unregulated racism, we need more loud women (who also understand white privilege) like West more than ever, as well as men who will guide other men to a more loving path. I would recommend Shrill to everyone in search of a fierce, funny, and oh-so-necessary read. I will end this review with a quote from the end of the book, a snippet of West's final rallying cry for us all:

"I think the most important thing I do in my professional life today is delivering public, impermeable "no"s and sticking to them. I say no to people who prioritize being cool over being good. I say no to misogynists who want to weaponize my body against me. I say not o men who feel entitled to my attention and reverence, who treat everything the light touches as a resource for them to burn. I say no to religious zealots who insist that I am less important than an embryo. I say no to my own instinct to stay quiet...

... It's a way of kicking down the boundaries that society has set for women - be compliant, be a caregiver, be quiet - and erecting my own. I will do this; I will not do that. You believe in my subjugation; I don't have to be nice to you. I am busy; my time is not a public commodity. You are boring; go away.

That is world-building.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,037 followers
June 7, 2016
I have been a big fan of Lindy West for a few years now. I use one of her stories from Back Fence PDX when I teach Storytelling, as a jump off point to encourage students to tell about a time they overcame adversity. When I heard she was coming out with a book, I was excited, and knew I'd want it in audio. This was no mistake! This was the book I needed even though I didn't know I needed it!

Lindy covers fat shaming, feminism, abortion, marriage, and internet trolls - if you know her work at all none of these topics should be a surprise. She continues to fearlessly write for the internet despite horrific trolling experiences, and perhaps, she and I like to think, she has had a hand in changing the culture from being permissive about online harassment. One can only hope.

I think there are two audiences for this book - people who already agree with everything Lindy West writes about, and the people who started to dismiss this review the minute I used the phrase "fat shaming." Lindy delves deep into her own life and shares her experiences, and I hope this can produce empathy in some readers. She is braver than I am.

"I don't want the people who love me to avoid the reality of my body. I don't want them to feel uncomfortable with its size and shape, to tacitly endorse the idea that fat is shameful, to pretend that I'm something that I'm not, in deference to a system that hates me."

"Please don't forget - I am my body. When my body gets smaller, it's still me. When my body gets bigger, it's still me. There's not a thin woman inside me awaiting excavation; I am one piece."

Profile Image for Joanne Harris.
Author 101 books5,622 followers
May 22, 2016
Profoundly intimate, funny, raucous, articulate; this is a book for every man who ever thought of women as an alien species; and for every woman who was ever made to feel like a stranger in her own skin. It's not a memoir; it's a reminder that ultimately, we ourselves, and no-one else, get to determine who were are. Terrific.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,414 reviews7,407 followers
April 15, 2019
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

2.5 Stars

I’m going to be 100% transparent here and admit to the fact that I had never heard of Lindy West or her writing or this book. What I had heard of, however, was . . . .

I have such a wicked crush on Aidy Bryant it’s not even funny. From being one of the driving forces behind the female counterpoint to The Lonely Island . . . .

To owning everything there is when it comes to playing oversexed teens . . . . .

Aidy Bryant is a continual over-the-top laugh-out-loud force every week on SNL and has become a quiet force in proving both the “women aren’t funny” and “fat people are disgusting” troll armies wrong . . . .

When I heard she was getting her own television show I was thrilled – followed by nearly immediately being crushed because I am not a subscriber to the Hulu. So I did what I do best and I looked to see if Shrill had started off as a book.

I started listening and thought this was going to be a little memoir on navigating the world as a fat female. Being that I myself am a fat female, I have definitely spent my adult life embracing my plus size and trying to present a confident/body positive image no matter what trolls might have to say otherwise about the subject. I was pretty sure I would like this book. And I did . . . . until I didn’t any more. Body positivity = good. Believing overweight people should be declared a protected class????

Again – this is coming from someone who is probably around the same size as Lindy West, but I’m not about to let my white privilege show through so much that I’m going to back her up on that argument.

Wishing comedians didn’t joke about things like rape = good. Spending 1/3 of a book arguing that you believe in free speech while kinda doing whatever was possible to take away other’s (albeit disgusting uggos) free speech = notsogood. And speaking of that part of the book. On what planet does Daniel Tosh deserve more attention than he already has received? At some point I think that turd would have dried up and blown away by now if it weren’t for all the attention he receives in response to his “bad boy” brand of humor. Oh and dare I forget the focus on the boypig Tosh (or even better the sour grapes presented to the non-offensive Patton Oswalt simply for being famous enough that people listen to him when he speaks) while Louis C.K. gets a pass . . . . .

Hindsight is 20/20 on that one!

I ended up not being the target audience for this “fat, feminist, abortion story” – obviously YMMV. If I didn’t have such a hair trigger when it comes to wanting instant gratification I would have taken a second to look at the blurb and see that West is Lena Dunham’s kind of girl which means she probably wouldn’t be the kind of girl for me. Guess that ol’ hindsight works for me here too ; )
Profile Image for Hannah.
587 reviews1,046 followers
February 6, 2017
Really thought provoking and anger inducing but still very funny.

I had not heard of Lindy West before listening to this book but I had read quite a few very positive reviews of it - so when Audible recommended this book to me, I did not hesitate to download it. And man am I glad I did! This is a brilliant book that made me think and laugh and very angry. Lindy West is my absolute hero.

Lindy West talks about a whole range of topics - from fat shaming, to rape jokes, to the misogyny she experiences online, to abortion (her own in fact). The book and her opinions are super feminist at their core and while lots of her arguments weren't particularly new to me, she still makes her points very clear - and manages to stay funny at the same time. And we need humour! I love that she made me laugh as much as she made me angry. I like that this is her way of coping and it really made this a great book to listen to. I really enjoyed listening to Lindy West read her own essays - her delivery is perfect and her dry humour really shines through in this format.

This is the book I wanted So You've Been Publicly Shamed to be - because even though Lindy West talks mostly about her own experiences, she manages to do in a much more measured and politically aware way. She shows how the internet hive mind IS in fact misogynistic (and racist for that matter) - a point that I wish Jon Ronson had made better. The abuse she suffers from countless trolls is impossible to grasp. She quotes mails she got, comments people left, tweets aimed at her and so on and it is so so hard to even listen to. I have no idea how she copes and I have the utmost respect that she continues her work and continues to try and make the world a better place - I don't know if I could do what she does given all the hate she receives.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,630 followers
April 2, 2018
This is a zippy collection of essays from the amusingly sharp-tongued Lindy West. I've been a fan of Lindy's columns in The New York Times, and decided to check out her book.

Shrill covers everything from Lindy's run-ins with internet trolls, her pushback on fat-shamers, her critique of rape jokes, and the death of her father. Lindy is a strong writer and I enjoyed reading her stories. Highly recommended.

Profile Image for Oriana.
Author 2 books3,259 followers
December 20, 2020
I have read exactly six pages so far and have already laughed out loud four times. I LOVE YOU LINDY WEST.


I am now exactly 23 pages in and was just rendered literally, gaspingly helpless with laughter at this line, in the (phenomenal) chapter on childhood role models for little fat girls, where she is discussing Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast: "How come, when they turn back into humans, Chip is a four-year-old boy, but his mother, Mrs. Potts, is like 107? As soon as you become a mother, apparently, you are instantly interchangeable with the oldest woman in the world, and/or sixteen ounces of boiling brown water with a hat on it."
Profile Image for emily.
192 reviews504 followers
June 14, 2016
This should be required reading for everyone who is alive right now. Lindy West is just so smart and so interesting and she writes about phenomenons that are happening in our current society so well. She writes about being a fat woman, about having an abortion, about how her weight has affected her relationships with people, about being verbally abused online, about losing her father, and, my favorite, being a woman in comedy (those 2 chapters were so, so incredible).

Just please read her book.
Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews106k followers
September 14, 2016
All hail Lindy West! This collection of essays is one of the funniest and most infuriating books I have read. West is an expert in exposing the absurd messages women (and men) receive about our bodies, sexuality, and autonomy. From the first chapter where she lists the pathetically small (and ultimately flawed) list of fat female role models she had in her youth, I was hooked. The list includes Ursula the Sea Witch, The Neighbor with the Arm Flab from The Adventures of Pete & Pete, and Baloo Dressed as a Sexy Fortune Teller. A disturbing chapter that begins with West calling the FBI to report vicious harassment by a Twitter follower is delightfully titled “Why Fat Lady So Mean To Baby Men?” It’s this dichotomy that makes Shrill an such an entertaining and important read.

–-Katie MacBride

from The Best Books We Read In July 2016: http://bookriot.com/2016/08/01/riot-r...
Profile Image for Melki.
5,666 reviews2,322 followers
May 21, 2021
I was the girl kids would point to on the playground and say, "She's your girlfriend," to gross out the boys.

I'd never heard of West, a comedy writer who is the frequent punching bag of internet trolls, until I found her book of essays on the shelf at the library. Through Lindy's eyes, we learn what it's like to grow up fat. As a chunky child, she found a dearth of role models and female characters who had her same body type. The fat women were either villains or buffoons. Things didn't get any easier as she grew up.

As I imperceptibly rounded the corner into adulthood---fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen---I watched my friends elongate and arch into these effortless, exquisite things. I waited. I remained a stump.

Dating? Well . . . I'll let Lindy tell it.

Lots of men wanted to have sex with me . . . they just didn't want to got to a restaurant with me, or bring me to their office party, or open Christmas presents with me.

Basically, Lindy is fine with how she looks, and particularly who she is.

When I looked in the mirror, I could never understand what was supposedly so disgusting. I knew I was smart, funny, talented, social, kind---why wasn't that enough? By all the metrics I cared about, I was a home run.

It's everyone else who has a problem . . .

As a woman, my body is scrutinized, policed, and treated as a public commodity. As a fat woman, my body is also lampooned, openly reviled, and associated with moral and intellectual failure.

So, what do you do when you're too big, in a world where bigness is cast not only as aesthetically objectionable, but also as a moral failing?

Though I did deduct one star because after a while it seemed like a game of Who's Going to be Mean to Lindy Next?, there's much more going on here than a woman getting picked on because she's fat. West is an interesting gal, and a fine writer who expresses herself beautifully. Had this not been a library book, I could have gone nuts with a highlighter pen coloring in all the witty statements and observations. As a reader who has lost both parents, I thought this statement beautifully sums up what death is like for the survivors, maybe better than anything I've ever read on the subject:

He was, and then he wasn't. One moment his body was the locus of his personhood, the next moment our memories had to pick up the slack.

Profile Image for Judith.
445 reviews64 followers
March 12, 2016

I had expected something shocking, rowdy and intense, and it's all of those, but there's something slightly immature about it. It's almost as if the author is showing off with her “no holds barred” writing. She uses a lot of slang and words are abbreviated, almost like “text speak”, and maybe it's a generational thing, but it just didn't come across as humourous, just an attempt to shock older readers, and be “cool” for younger ones. I believe the author is also a live performer - maybe her views are funnier in that situation than on paper.

This is one of those books you can dip in and out of as it's split into chapters dealing with different topics – or, should I say, similar topics that don't need to be read consecutively from the beginning. Easy enough to read – I read it in a day – but not to my taste. Having said that I respect Ms West's feminist views and the fact she feels the need to shout them loudly, so I shall remain neutral in my voting.

My thanks to Amazon who sent me a complimentary copy to review.
Profile Image for Julie Ehlers.
1,112 reviews1,382 followers
June 19, 2016
There are a lot of awesome-looking feminist books coming out in 2016, and although I have longed to add all of them to my collection immediately, I vowed to wait for the paperback for most of them for the sake of my wallet. Shrill seemed like an obvious book for this "waiting" strategy—although I was aware that Lindy West was a prominent young feminist writer, I knew very little else about her and could barely even remember where I'd seen her work before (I guessed maybe Jezebel, and I turned out to be right about that). But for some reason this book called out to me in the bookstore, so when I got a Barnes & Noble gift card for my birthday, I spent part of it on a copy of Shrill.

Immediately I was glad I did. The opening chapter, where Lindy talks about the various female role models she had while growing up, made me laugh out loud multiple times. Lindy has a comedy background, which is on obvious display here; anyone operating under the delusion that feminists can't be funny should stay away from this book if they don't want their belief dispelled forever.

Admittedly, the book doesn't sustain this level of LOLs throughout—given the topics Lindy takes on, that would be impossible. But it's in the more serious parts of the book that its true value is revealed. I had no idea that Lindy was so much more than a pundit or commentator—she has in fact had a major influence on three of the most controversial cultural debates of recent years. She was the one who took on Dan "It Gets Better—Unless You're a Fat Kid" Savage in his bizarre vendetta against overweight people, eventually leading him to recognize that weight has no bearing on whether one has value as a person. Given the high level of influence Savage wields among his followers, that's no small thing. She also played a role in getting male comedians like Daniel Tosh to realize that falling back on (usually not very funny) rape jokes was, in most cases, not just reflecting but actually perpetuating rape culture, and she exhibited a lot of bravery in the process. Perhaps most significantly, her writing (and subsequent "This American Life" piece) about a horrible Twitter troll who had assumed the online persona of her recently deceased father actually convinced Twitter to address the issue of trolls and do something about it—and other websites followed suit. So while trolls can still be as vicious as ever, at least complaints about them are taken more seriously, and those who are hounded by them have some recourse.

I was deeply impressed by Lindy's tireless work to effect positive change, and equally impressed by her writing on personal topics such as her father's death and her (mostly sad, then finally happy) love life. If I had one complaint about Shrill, it's that it suffers from the fact that most of Lindy's past writing has been for internet outlets, with all that entails; namely, TMI on some topics, such as menstruation, and a maddeningly casual structure. The chapters are too interrelated for this to be viewed as a book of essays, but not cohesive enough to produce a seamless book. As more and more writers go straight from online writing to book deals, we're probably going to see this lack of structure more and more. I hope that publishers will start to pick up the slack and nurture their writers until they produce something that's recognizably booklike in its presentation.

Still, I do recommend this book to anyone who's even remotely curious about it. Lindy has put in the hard work of fighting the good fight, and it makes for a story that undeniably deserves to be told.

ETA: Here is a link to the "This American Life" episode, which is definitely worth listening to even if you don't read the book: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio...
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,912 reviews35.3k followers
June 21, 2018
...Parts were *hysterical*....
...Very personal memoir-
...I started this book 2 years ago - actually got bored - ( I know I know - what’s wrong with me?)....
but I finished it this time - saw my old Kindle-highlights and all.
The chapter about Lindy’s father was especially moving.
The biggest pleasure I had - overall reading *Shrill*, was getting an experience of Lindy West.
She’s an inspiring awesome human being!

3.5 rating
October 3, 2021

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I've had SHRILL on my to-read list since 2017, so it feels really good to finally check it off my list. I've now read all three of West's essay collections and she's quickly become one of my favorite feminist essayists for her writings on body positivity, intersectional feminism, pop cultural commentary, and general amusing (or not-so-amusing) observations about how the world works. Also, I'm not entirely convinced that we aren't secretly the same person. For starters, we're both super awkward and like to shout in all-caps.

SHRILL is her first book and also the weakest, which makes sense because essays are hard and finding your voice is hard, and it feels like the two things in tandem can be like trying to learn how to ride a bike and juggle at the same time. Even so, it's still fantastic. There were slow portions but some of the essays were so, so good. Like, the one about her father made me tear up a little-- and the one about the troll who terrorized her using her father's death as a weapon, only to apologize later and offer reconciliation was... WHEW.

She writes quite openly about what it is like to be overweight in a society that only accepts thin bodies as healthy, attractive bodies. She brings up some pretty harsh truths about what it is like to be a woman on the internet. I watched a clip of the debate she did with comedian Jim Norton on YouTube and the comments section made me sick. Women are not supposed to take up space. They are not supposed to be loud and opinionated. They are not supposed to rejoice in the things that society says they should find shameful. Lindy flips the bird to all of that and says, YES THEY CAN, YES THEY ARE, YES THEY SHOULD, AND ALSO, YOU ARE DUMB.*

*I mean, I would imagine.

I'm really sad she doesn't have much of an internet presence. She talks about why in THE WITCHES ARE COMING and I get it. At the end of the day, your mental health should be your number one priority, and if social media is becoming an emotional sinkhole that drags you deeper every day, then yeah, maybe social media needs to exit stage left. It shouldn't be this way, and Lindy talks about this, too, about how women (and also PoCs/LGBT+) are basically told to grow thicker skins and not disrupt the status quo because THE INTERNET IS MEAN YOU GUYS AND THAT'S JUST HOW IT IS. Why is that how it is? IDK, but it is, and is apparently meant to stay so until the ends of time. SHRILL challenges that, and encourages people to push for courtesy and really own themselves, flaws and all. Parts of it are devastating, parts of it are funny, but ultimately it's a pretty satisfying and empowering read.

4 to 4.5 stars
Profile Image for Lilli.
118 reviews29 followers
March 23, 2022
I gulped down Lindy West's hilarious, heartfelt, moving memoir almost entirely in one go. She is captivating and oh-so-funny—if I could have one iota of her talent for comedy, just one little blip or sliver, that would be enough for me.

Lindy West is a writer, comedian, showrunner, columnist, and unashamed fat badass. Her memoir recounts times where her fatness ruined her life until she owned it and learned to make it hers, even while her own very famous boss continued to publicly fat-shame Americans. It recounted the experience of abortion and how while it is allowed to be emotionally painful, it also doesn't have to be, and shouldn't be expected to be. It recounted the ways in which comedy prior to the #MeToo movement made light of rape jokes and disrespected women. It recounted the poignant loss of her father and broken connection with her future husband that was one day repaired. It recounted the response to internet trolls and the deeper meanings of their actions. Most of all, it shifted my perspective on so much. On being a loud woman, unabashed in your beliefs, on standing up for what is right before others have the courage to, on taking on the hate and vitriol that clownish boys and men and even some women will spew at you for being yourself, on loving yourself while fat and sassy and loud and brash.

Wow, this lady can write. Beyond just being funny, she's incredibly insightful, and there are some seriously tear-jerking moments in this memoir. The audio, performed by Lindy herself, really made me feel as though I was connecting with this wonderful woman. I feel as though she is an old friend now, and a friend that made me stop and think about how I treat my other friends—fat friends, skinny friends, social justice friends, yee-yee friends (I have to admit, I do have them. You don't live in Grand Junction, Colorado and not have yee-yee Let's Go Brandon friends, no matter how hard you try to remain in your bubble), how I see them and the world and myself, and how I stand up for what is right.

The most amazing thing about this book is that it was written just before #MeToo blew up on the internet. Comedy in particular has changed so much since the publication of Shrill in 2016. The comedians like Jim Norton and even Louis C.K. that West discusses in her book have either had a public takedown for their inexcusable actions, words, and in some cases crimes against women, or they have had to come out and publicly disavow their friends and some of their own work in the past. I would really love to hear what Lindy has to say on this subject now. The jokes that were aimed at her and messages slogged at her after the publication of her article "How to Make a Rape Joke" were entirely unacceptable. These trolls do still exist, but the landscape of their trolling has changed completely. I'm sure she has written on this subject, and The Witches Are Coming is on my TBR, hopefully soon, so I'm interested in what she has to say there. She was so insightful in 2016 that she must have just transcended by now.

I can't recommend this memoir enough. It was everything—funny, heartbreaking, inspiring. Lindy West is my hero and I will always be listening and looking for more from her after this reading experience. An easy peasy 5 stars from me-asy!
Profile Image for Taryn.
1,204 reviews189 followers
September 14, 2016
I recently finished two audio books that on the surface don’t have much to do with each other, but upon reflection, I realized they both exposed major biases I didn’t know I had and forced me to rethink my views. Shrill is one of those books; I'll be back in a few days to tell you about the other. These reviews actually make me squirmy to write because it’s hard to admit I harbor these prejudices, but hiding them or pretending they don’t exist won’t make them go away. And that is the goal, definitely—to make them go away.

Lindy West is a humor writer, and her book is a collection of hilarious memoir-ish essays dealing with issues from body image to reproductive rights to fat role models in Disney movies (spoiler alert: it’s not a very inspiring list). The thing I want to stress the most about Shrill is how knee-slapping hysterical it is. Within the first few minutes I was cackling gleefully, all attempts to apply eyeliner abandoned, and I am not really an out-loud laugher when it comes to reading. (One tiny example from a sea of delightful anecdotes: she once wore an old-fashioned menstrual belt to school while on her period. If you are not familiar with those, fear not, Lindy West will explain it to you. In detail. I died.)

But here's my uncomfortable confession: I had no idea before reading West’s book that I had a bias against fat people. For much of my adult life, I’ve been generously proportioned myself. I didn’t realize it was possible to be biased against a group I myself have been a part of, but now I know better. I’ve held the belief, though never overtly acknowledged it, that fat people deserve to be looked down upon or judged, and if they didn’t want that judgment, they should lose weight. So basically, I thought that fat people needed to meet a certain standard before they deserved to be treated like human beings. Of course, when I phrase it so baldly now, the idea sounds horrific—and it is. But I hadn’t ever interrogated those latent beliefs before.

West is an outspoken feminist advocate, and as such is a target of the constant vitriol of Internet trolls, but she somehow continues to fight the good fight with dignity and a healthy dose of sarcasm. She’s also a master of tone, considering she’s able to deliver so many important messages and be raucously funny at the same time. I recently listened to and loved Amy Schumer’s The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, and listening to Shrill reminded me of that experience. Both writers somehow manage to tackle incredibly difficult, touchy topics with their fabulous wit intact.

I've never read a book that made me both laugh and think so hard.

More book recommendations by me at www.readingwithhippos.com
Profile Image for Obsidian.
2,703 reviews927 followers
November 19, 2017

This was such a great book! I can see why it won on Goodreads last year. I wish I had heard of West before cause her writing speaks to me.

Told in a semi-chronological way, West's "Shrill" goes into her childhood through her adult years taking a hard look at herself and those around her for seeing her as less than cause she was "fat". I use that word cause West does in this memoir. She makes no apologies for her size which I loved.

West touches upon her professional career writing for publications like Jezebel as well as internet trolls as well.

I honestly don't get why anyone in the world has no problem just being nasty to someone cause their fat. But shit, we got people who don't think POC should be treated the same way as whites. That's to say in my own way, y'all are broken and I'm tired of the world making excuses for you and ignoring those you hate and ridicule.

West also touches about Hillary Clinton and Trump at the beginning of this book (she wrote the introduction two weeks after the 2016 US Presidential Election) and mentions how Hillary's voice was mocked and how "shrill" is often thrown at women who dare to reach above their station.

Well West loops this back into internet trolling and what do we do when we elect an internet troll as President.

My favorite passages dealt with West's no nonsense mom. Her dismay at periods. And her sadness at watching her father die.

I also had no idea West was part of the stand up comic circle through MCing some shows. She mentions Patton Oswalt and others. Can I say how grossed out and dismayed I was at West recounting the horrible crap said to and about her when she came out against those defending Daniel Tosh for his rape jokes. West also goes into debating Jim Norton on Totally Biased about rape jokes in comedy.

Can I ask something here? What the hell is so funny about rape jokes? Cause I don't get those. I have been at comedy shows before and have laughed zero times. Doesn't matter if the comic is male or female and or telling a story about how they "raped" someone wink wink nudge nudge.

The internet trolling sections had me upset. The amount of crap sent West's way was disgusting. Recounting a story of how an internet troll, found out about her, her recently dead father, and used his account to screw with her was awful. She forgave. She's better than me, my family motto is "God forgives, we don't forget".

I also at times want to quit Twitter. I did for a while the other day but popped back in since I have so many authors and friends I met on online communities there. But I can see why West finally quit. The harassment against women is awful. See Gamergate, Leslie Jones, any woman anywhere having an opinion a man doesn't like, etc. Gamergate was eye opening to me. People we're doxxing, swatting, and threatening to murder and rape women and people would shrug and go free speech and grow a thicker skin. West's passages clue you in why this is wrong and just messed up to expect a victim to just get over it.

I thought the writing was very good and flow smooth. I cracked up a few times out loud and had to explain while I was at the hair dresser what was I reading that was so funny. I read some passages out loud.

Dear Lindy West, a bunch of black women in Alexandria, VA totally concur with your opinions about periods.

The setting jumps around in this from her growing up in Seattle to LA and I think back to Seattle. West doesn't really give descriptions of places much, but the things she says resonates.

A very good memoir that doesn't hold back on punching you in the gut and also making you cry. I'm so seeking out her posts at Jezebel and elsewhere.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,209 reviews548 followers
June 22, 2017
No rating. From the introduction and the first/ next 20 pages I was repelled. Not for me on at least 4 or 5 different facets. Shrill means, to me, shrieking in unpleasant vibrato. This is beyond that, it is not only dark humor. It is filled with venom. Hate, anger and stereotype rule. No good intent is assumed for "the other". Self definitions and core are entirely self-involved to "value". Her "we think" is also in many ways self abusive. But most of all the crude language and context foul dialog becomes beyond dumb and not worthy readable time. She reminds me of George Carlin in his last years when he became the core of bitter and when his act became the opposite of funny. We saw his show in 3 successive decades. The last one was so bitter and so filled with vile emotional context and hateful to "other" intent, at least a tenth of the audience actually left. It was sad to see that brilliance become so tainted and so personally miserable. That this vitriol can be interpreted as humor becomes hard to understand for those of us who have different, and some of us who may have had far harder luck, health, life experiences and cultural contexts of our own. That she believes progress will occur from this shrieking calling out vitriol exposes how little she knows about homo sapiens emotional and cognitive reality.

This goes on my abandoned shelf.
Profile Image for Eilonwy.
814 reviews204 followers
August 10, 2017
Thank goodness I had this book while my plane sat on the runway for 2-1/2 hours in Montreal while waiting out a string of thunderstorms. I hardly noticed the time.

This book is put together as a blend of memoir and opinion, as Lindy West recounts how she's spent her life being scorned for her weight/size, but nevertheless got over any shyness about public speaking, got involved with stand-up comedy, and developed a thick-enough skin to tolerate the absolutely appalling trolling she receives in her current job as an opinion columnist.

Lindy West is a true crusader as she's spent much of her working life taking on fatphobia and attempting to make male comedians understand why rape "jokes" just aren't funny. This book could be "shrill," that word all-too-often used to attempt to silence women who speak up for themselves. But I found it very funny, because she finds the humorous and the absurd in every situation or subject, even the most serious, and uses that humor to make sharp, well-analyzed, insightful points.

My favorite aspect of this book is its optimism. Change may not come overnight, and may be barely visible. But Lindy West is able to point out progress over 15 or so years of the fat acceptance movement, and direct changes she's affected in how the male stand-up comedy community talks about rape and rape "humor."

I also appreciate that she's quite aware that not everyone is tough enough to say what they think and handle the onslaught of hatred, especially the outright and frightening misogyny directed at women opinion columnists. I deeply appreciate that she's committed to speaking up and speaking out for all the women who can't manage to do so, and that she's not condescending about it or disappointed by other women's silence--she understands how truly hard it is to withstand the repercussions.

I hope lots of people, male and female, read this book, and that it gives all of its readers the courage to speak our minds, at least sometimes, politely, empathetically, and compassionately.
Profile Image for Vanessa.
460 reviews289 followers
March 30, 2019
I will endlessly support women lending their personal hardships and putting themselves in the public firing line to enhance and widen the world for others. Much like the original suffragette crusaders we still need voices to speak up like Lindy’s to break down prejudices especially those with weight issues to not be ignored and like it or lump it fat people exist and aren’t here to cause you personal grief. Believe it or not they are human people and should be treated with respect and dignity like everyone else is afforded.

This is an emotionally charged read in fact it’s a travesty to hear the amount of ire and anger, and not just hate spew but out and out threats of violence Lindy receives daily simply by being an outspoken unapologetic fat person in the public eye and the worse crime of all she has an OPINION. Wow!

To read this book and realise I had some of my own deep seated prejudices was confronting, I’ve awkwardly laughed at rape jokes because you know comedy, believing they are meant to be “funny” they are not, but also I was so humbled by the story that I will endeavour to make amends for past judgements and indiscretions, when a book challenges your stance and makes you accountable for your own unhealthy thinking or behaviour then I think this is a such a valuable and important book. Everyone can learn something from this.

Profile Image for Ivonne Rovira.
1,861 reviews191 followers
June 2, 2016
I hadn’t heard of Lindy West until I discovered that this book was coming out, and the description of the book was so intriguing that I had to pre-order it on Audible. And it lived up to that high expectation — especially as she narrates her debut book herself.

West, a zaftig feminist and award-winning writer, explores society’s innate discomfort with women’s bodies — especially, although not limited to, the heavy ones in this book of essays with a dollop of memoir thrown in for good measure. Menstrual blood, abortion, death, feminism, female friendship, some ridiculous New Age stuff, Internet trolls, and, of course, fat shaming come in for scrutiny. Now, as a fat girl myself, I find it very difficult — even at age 58 — to be comfortable in my own skin. Thanks for the help, Lindy.
Profile Image for britt_brooke.
1,261 reviews94 followers
October 27, 2016
I commend West for what she's doing, but this book was nothing earth shattering. The self-love message is of utmost importance. (Well done!) But, I was unable to connect with much of the book. It just wasn't for me.

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