GB Book Club Review: Shrill by Lindy West

We hope you enjoyed reading our first GB Book Club pick “Shrill” by Lindy West! We loved seeing your discussions on our GB Book Club Facebook Group and we hope you enjoyed the book as much as we did. We’ve got the final word from your host Brittany Gibbons – read on to get her review and keep an eye out for what we’re reading next! 

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Review by Brittany Gibbons

Greetings from inside the book Shrill, which is where I live now. Please forward all my mail to a one, Most Body Positive Place on The Planet Screw the Haters Blvd.

I just finished the first Gwynnie Bee Book Club Selection, Shrill by Lindy West. I listened to the audiobook in my car, and I can assure you, I never went home. I just drove around and around, aimlessly, just so I could keep listening. Shrill was painful and uncomfortable and hilarious. It was a book that I wish I would have written, I don’t know, maybe I did? After the second chapter I stopped being able to tell where her story ended and mine began.

Lindy West is a respected women’s advocate and a talented writer, and hearing her talk about navigating her career and her life, where her body are very much judged before her words, is as fascinating as it is empowering.

I wanted to share with you every quote from the book that either brought me to my knees or made cackle with laughter. But, I quickly realized that I would just be quoting to you the entire book, because that is what Shrill basically is; it’s a collection of brilliant quotes, organized in chronological order, that will change the way you live your life forever. Here are three of my favorites.

“This is the only advice I can offer. Each time something like this happens, take a breath and ask yourself, honestly: Am I dead? Did I die? Is the world different? Has my soul splintered into a thousand shards and scattered to the winds? I think you’ll find, in nearly every case, that you are fine. Life rolls on. No one cares. Very few things—apart from death and crime—have real, irreversible stakes, and when something with real stakes happens, humiliation is the least of your worries.”

If you are someone who can say that you’ve never had something terrible said to you on the internet, I’d like to shake your hand, because you my dear, are a rare find. Being online- especially a fat woman online- opens the door to a world of unfiltered hate without consequence. In Shrill, Lindy faced the trolls head on. She’s been called fat. She’s been threatened with rape. She was even heckled by a troll twitter account pretending to be her recently deceased father.

Lindy talked back. She spoke up because hate thrives in the dark, and in doing that she not only shined a light on the humanity at stake, she gave women everywhere the words to speak up.

If you are like me, the best responses always come to me hours later, while I’m laying in bed or in the shower. Adding her experiences and reactions to my arsenal will greatly increase my response time.

But we all have that interaction or confrontation that we wish we could do over, don’t you?

“In a certain light, feminism is just the long, slow realization that the stuff you love hates you”

So yeah, been there. It sucks realizing that something you love, whether it be a movie or a song or even a joke that always does well at parties is offensive and wrong. It’s really hard to step outside of a crowd laughing and be the one to say, “Actually, this is really terrible.”

Being sensitive or politically correct is thrown around like an insult these days, but the reality is, it’s not that we are a more sensitive world, it’s that marginalized populations finally have the social platform to share their feelings and experiences out loud. The sentiment isn’t new, we’re all just finally hearing it for the first time.

I am very open about my fondness for terrible cinema, and my addiction to Adam Sandler movies. I grew up watching them, and they always make me feel like a kid when I catch one on television. But now, as I start rewatching them with my own children, I’m seeing them through a much stricter filter. The moments I laughed alongside college friends with in theaters are now moments I realize are seeped in misogyny, racism and stereotypes.

Have you rewatched something you remember being hilarious or poignant, only to see it’s actually none of those?

“Maybe you are thin. You hiked that trail and you are fit and beautiful and wanted and I am so proud of you, I am so in awe of your wiry brightness; and I’m miles behind you, my breathing ragged. But you didn’t carry this up the mountain, You only carried yourself. How hard would you breathe if you had to carry me? You couldn’t. But I can.”

Tying health to worth is one of the cruelest responses I get in regards to my body. Lindy speaks at length about the realization that there is no “perfect” body, and the positive ramifications of that discovery on her life.

It’s incredibly freeing to realize your worth is limitless, just as you are. That is a tough lesson to learn for all women, regardless of size, but fat women have an especially difficult journey, because the push back we face in the process is so socially acceptable.

It’s normal to want to be thin, and to crave the ease and acceptance you associate with that body type, but don’t discredit the body that you have right now, and don’t discredit the amazing life you live while inside of it.

Fat women are normal people who deserve the same access to society as everyone else. And if Lindy West teaches you anything, let it be that the very first step in demanding that is realizing that it’s true, yourself.

I could go on, at length, about the emotions and anger and empowerment I found inside this book, but I want to hear from you.

What did you think? What parts really hit home, or moments did you easily or take issue with relating to? What is your Shrill take-away? Comment below or join the discussion on our GB Book Club Facebook Group.