Eleven months ago, Hillary Clinton was poised to wrap up the Democratic presidential nomination, and feminist writer Lindy West came out with a perfectly timed book.
Both memoir and activist in nature, Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman tackled our societal discomfort with women who speak up, take up space, and fight for their own humanity. West wrote extensively, and hilariously, about her journey to fat acceptance; a comedy writer and long-time fixture in the Seattle comedy scene, she also revisited a very public, painful rupture with much of the stand-up community due to her stance on rape jokes and her ensuing harassment on YouTube, Twitter, and elsewhere. In both cases, she visibly shifted the public conversation in the direction she hoped. Progress was on the move.
Then, Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. Shrill, which came out in paperback this February, lives on in a very different political moment than the one in which she wrote it. A sober introduction added to the paperback edition captures the newly jaundiced lens her likely feminist, liberal readers might have on the world. “We don’t know if November 8, 2016 was the republic’s last fair election,” she wrote. “We don’t know whether Trump is simply robbing us, or robbing us and seeding a holocaust.”
West wrote the introduction shortly after the election. In January, she wrote a column for the Guardian announcing that she was leaving Twitter; she’s convinced that the abuse she and many others endured on the platform was “a grand-scale normalization project, disseminating libel and disinformation […] and ultimately greasing the wheels for Donald Trump‘s ascendance to the US presidency.” It was a much darker vision of social media than her ultimately hopeful take on Twitter trolling in Shrill ― in one story, also featured on “This American Life,” she has a long conversation with a troll who felt remorse after impersonating her dead father.
“The book is still true, and I still believe in it,” West told The Huffington Post in a recent phone conversation. She felt the book needed to be reframed for 2017, however. “If you write a book about progress, you have to acknowledge when, suddenly, history grabs you and drags you backwards.”
We chatted with West about how her book would have been different in the Trump era, the power of empathy ― and comedy ― and the value of diverse representation. Check out our interview below:
I’ve always wondered what it’s like to go on tour for a book that was wrapped up and finished a while ago ― and now you’re another year out, for the paperback ― what is it like to keep talking about a book that you finished so long ago, at this point?
I mean, it’s incredible, honestly. It’s really hard to be away from home for so long, it’s grueling, just because travel is grueling, and it’s exhausting and all my clothes are dirty. But it’s also ― …read more
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