photo credit: Lindy West (instagram), by Jenny Jiminez
I don't remember how I found out Lindy West had a book coming out, but it's like one of those Maya Angelou moments, "... people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Only in this case it was like: People (me) will forget that they have seven books to review sitting on their desk, and FREAK OUT AND IMMEDIATELY MESSAGE LINDY WEST TO BEG FOR HER BOOK.
So, that's pretty much how it went.
The book came to my door direct from Hatchette a week or so later. I kept moving it from table to dresser to desk to coffee table, not reading it because I wanted to savor it — like it was the last brownie or something.
No, I really was that excited.
There are few writers I'd wait in line for: J.K. Rowling (I actually DID this in 2000), Roxane Gay, Jes Baker, Caitlin Moran, Virgie Tovar, and now Lindy. Shrill is just like you'd expect it to be: smart, witty, funny, though-provoking... it's just like Lindy herself.
There are so many amazing feminist writers writing amazing memoirs, I feel like it's changing the landscape of the bookstore (or Amazon, as it were). I realize they have always been there, and I was just up to my neck in diapers or something, but this is an exciting time. We're talking about bodies and existing as a human being in a way we never have, in a way that will change conversations forever. And Lindy is on the front line.
In Shrill you'll find essays about life, death, periods, abortions, love, and assholes. You will definitely laugh — you may very likely cry. I did both.
And now, Lindy:
Let's start with getting to know you. Can you describe yourself in 13 words or less (haiku)? OR just tell us a little bit about yourself.
You need to find me?
Just listen for the sounds of
Columbo and snacks
Was writing always something you planned to do? Or are you like me and were planning on being a veterinarian?
Oh, veterinarian for sure. I write about this briefly in the book — it was ballerina until I sized out, then veterinarian until I realized how much blood and death is involved. I wrote stories all the time when I was a kid, but it seemed like a totally inaccessible dream career, so I never seriously considered it until after college when I started falling into these little writing jobs. Eventually, I'd just done it long enough that I felt like I belonged and could call myself a writer. But it was all a surprise to me.
Can you tell us about your new book Shrill? Much excitement over here.
Shrill is a memoir about growing up fat with big opinions, in a culture that wants women to be small and compliant. For most of my early life I was terribly shy, I think because it was the only way I could see to make myself small, at least in an immediate way. Of course, I tried for the long-term route too — counting calories and spending money on diet classes and berating myself for failing to be thin for years and years. There's a lot of that in the book, too — about coming to terms with my body and learning to live in the present instead of this potential imaginary thin future.
That all sounds so dour, though. It's also a really funny book. Humor has always been my coping mechanism, so I don't know how to go dark without going funny.
Trolls never give up, but your method of coping with them is really outstanding. Did you develop that approach because of SO MANY assholes? Or were you just made that awesome?
Hahahahaha, oh, I don't even know that there's that much thought behind it — I really just do whatever feels most natural and cathartic in that moment. If it feels best to block the troll and move on, I do that (that's what I do 90% of the time). If it feels better to sass back and embarrass them, I do that.
It does have to do with volume, to some extent — when you're dealing with troll after troll after troll, it stops feeling like a novelty and you have to focus on yourself and your survival in this industry and your own mental health.
Part two: Why are people so awful?
Pain, insecurity, entitlement, ignorance, pride, diaper rash.
Since we are talking about people we love, who are some of the people you'd like to tell us about?
Samantha Irby!!! She's my favorite writer. Go read everything she's ever written.
Also my husband, Ahamefule J Oluo. Go listen to all his music. And his This American Life! He's a genius, and I thought that before we were even dating, so it COUNTS.