For episode 10 of Required Reading, Stella and I covered biography, autobiography, and memoir as a genre. Had I read Lindy West’s Shrill back then, I would have heartily recommended it on that episode.
If you’re not familiar with Lindy West, she is a writer who was a longtime columnist for Jezebel and currently contributes to The Guardian and This American Life. She has, over the years, written critically about popular culture and also written about topics such as feminism and issues that surround body type, specifically fat acceptance. Shrill is a collection of interconnected essays that detail incidents from her childhood in the Seattle area as well as her writing career and in them, she is brutally honest about her struggles with growing up and being fat as well as being a woman writer on the internet.
This latter topic should interest just about anyone who has found themselves pushing back at any of the reprehensible “-gate” movements that have sprung up online in the last five years, such as “gamergate” or “comicsgate.” West has entire chapters of the book devoted to the online harassment she received during her time at a number of publications, as well as the arguments that she got into with her editors (namely, Dan Savage at The Stranger) regarding their own misogyny and fat-shaming.
Now, I’ll admit that this isn’t one I actually bought for myself–it was a gift for my wife, who had put it on her wish list–but I had been reading Lindy’s work on Jezebel for years before she left (and honestly, the site hasn’t been the same since she and a few others–namely, Kara Brown and Erin Gloria Ryan–left) and knew that I was eventually going to pick it up (or should I say open it since I read this on my Kindle). If your beliefs are in line with West’s, it’ll be a fair amount of confirmation bias. However, this book isn’t only for the like-minded. Her accessibility and honesty as a writer make Shrill a learning experience, and I think that anyone and everyone should read it. It’s not just gaining perspective, but really seeing what many women are put through on the Internet on a daily basis and what they do to handle it. It’s easily one of the best reads of my year so far.
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