Review: Shrill, a Memoir by Lindy West

Until I started reading Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, I didn’t realize how long I’d been stanning Lindy West.

For those just joining, Lindy West is a fierce feminist, hilarious blogger, and fat advocate. Her memoir, Shrill, tracks her career and how she became the wise warrior that she is, starting in her 20s when she began writing hysterical movie reviews for The Stranger.

At that time, she was working for Dan Savage, famous for his sex advice column at The Stranger. One of my favorite essays in Lindy’s book is about her conflict with Dan over his fat shaming and harping on obese people. I used to read Dan religiously, and I vaguely recall being annoyed over said harping. For some reason, I forgot that it was one of the things that contributed to a blow up between the two of them. But here’s the thing: Lindy doesn’t focus on the fight. She tells the story of how people change. And Dan is certainly one of those people who has changed over the years. (Full disclosure: I used to correspond with him, and he was always sweet and understanding, sometimes even asking if he could pass on my advice to other femme doms and the like.) I could totally see things playing out between these two the way they did because, although I don’t know them personally, I’ve watched them write and evolve as people for well over a decade.

I recognized many of Lindy’s career moments in this book, and thoroughly enjoyed hearing these moments relayed in her own voice. Destigmatizing abortion by speaking up about her own. Becoming a fat advocate. Confronting the troll that was impersonating her dead father on Twitter. Man, I remember seeing that Twitter account and thinking, “Who is so cruel to do such a thing?” And it turns out that it was some random hateful dude. She wound up interviewing him (anonymously) for This American Life. That’s the terrifying thing about Lindy’s memoir. She shows us how pervasive misogyny and rape culture are, in part because men just don’t believe that what they say has consequences.

Boy does it fucking ever.

Of course, I hadn’t been stanning so hard that I knew about her personal journey with Aham, which she talks about in the book. All I knew was that they’d appeared together on my friend Jackie Kashian‘s The Dork Forest podcast in 2012. Lindy didn’t talk nearly as much on that podcast as I’d expected. But it was okay because Aham was funny and a brilliant musician. I loved them both. Years later, I saw the photos she’d posted of her wearing that fabulous wedding dress and the smile on Aham’s face the day they married. Priceless.

I also remember Lindy leaving Twitter. That’s not in the book (I don’t believe). I wanted to tell her that the Internet has been like this since 1991, that she should have seen the newsgroups. But they weren’t as bad as comments and social media. Not by a long shot. We just keep giving this monster longer arms and sharper claws in the name of “stickiness” and “commerce.” I’m glad she ditched the bullshit. It’s sanity-saving.

Also not in her memoir (obvs) was me reading her Game of Thrones writeup to Len Wein and the rest of our group at Super Sunday Supper Squad. Everyone was dying with laughter. It was there in Len’s house that I met George R.R. Martin. They were old friends, Len and George. I’ll never forget the look on George’s face when we were discussing Len’s recent hospital visit at Stokercon in 2017…

But I digress. It only makes sense that Lindy’s writing would bleed into my own experiences and memories, since she’s one of my favorite writers.

Lindy’s memoir is ultimately so full of wisdom. About finding oneself. About holding onto your truth. The cost of developing that thick skin. And how comedy can be heartbreaking. If you love humor and women warriors, pick up this book and discover what I’ve known for almost 15 years: Lindy West is a goddamn, glorious treasure.

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