Writer, comedian and activist Lindy West likes to tell it like it is.
With her take-it-or-leave-it sensibility wrapped in a comedic twist, West has authored the bestselling memoir “Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman,” which has been turned into a Hulu original series. She writes for the series as well.
With her latest book, a collection of essays called “The Witches Are Coming,” the New York Times columnist dives into a collection of topics from pop culture to current politics and a little of everything in between.
West will appear in An Afternoon with Lindy on Sunday at the Delaplaine Arts Center in downtown Frederick. The event is co-sponsored by Curious Iguana. The ticketed price of $30 includes a copy of “Witches.” That evening will include a book signing and Q&A.
Away in Bali before her appearance in Frederick, West took the time to answer some questions via email.
You’re known for taking a comedic twist on serious topics. Is your humor something you were born with or has life just shaped you in a way that you can look at things with a comedic slant?
West: A little of both, I’m sure! I’m not a baby scientist, but I think to some extent people can be born with a sense of humor. We’ve all met babies who are funnier than other babies, right? I like to think I was one of those babies. And I had funny parents, so that helped — to grow up around people who used humor to get through the day. Jokes are a really natural coping mechanism for me, like a lot of people. It’s hard to be a teenage girl, even harder to be a fat teenage girl, and humor was the place I always, always, always gravitated to keep my head above water.
Many people have called you a “feminist warrior.” What do you think about the title?
West: Haha, I don’t know about ‘many people’! How many people? I mean, it’s very flattering! I’ll definitely take the compliment. On the one hand, it is extremely difficult, emotionally, to be a public figure talking about “controversial” topics like feminism, like fatness, like abortion. You do need a thick skin, you do need a degree of fortitude to keep putting yourself out there. It’s exhausting and grueling and I’m only just starting to be able to gauge the toll it’s taken on my mental health. But on the other hand, what am I going to do — not fight for abortion? Not fight for equal pay and women’s safety? Just be like, ‘OK, yes, I would like to be unsafe and devalued and relinquish autonomy over my body. Bye!’ Social Justice causes are not elective, if you’re paying attention or especially if you’re personally impacted. Also, though people do occasionally threaten my life, for the most part my job is sitting at a computer typing my opinions. In almost every way, this is the easiest job I’ve ever had. Like, I remember working retail. That [stuff] is hard. And in this space, a lot of people are fighting a lot harder than me, with much higher stakes, in real peril, without the attention and financial compensation that I receive. I just want to do my best with the platform I’m privileged to have been given.
In “The Witches Are Coming” the title is a nod to the term that has been thrown around during this current presidency. Was there something that sparked your need to lay bare witch hunts?
West: The Trump administration is built on disinformation above all else. I don’t think there’s anything more important right now than puncturing that fog, unequivocally, at every opportunity. The most vile and destructive political body on earth doesn’t get to claim the term “witch hunt” so they can cast themselves as the victims of discrimination.
The book features everything from asking if Adam Sandler is funny, to the weird likeability of Ted Bundy, a love of Clue, abortion and even more. Did you know when you started writing this book what subjects you were going to tackle or did it organically just come together for you?
West: Half and half! I had the bigger concept mapped out and a few chapters I knew I wanted in there, but the rest came together organically throughout the writing process.
What do you believe we will learn from the #metoo movement?
West: That collective action works.
Do you think there is hope for future generations?
West: Definitely! Of course! Anything is possible! I believe in the human will to survive, the depth of human ingenuity, and the breadth of human compassion. What’s important, though, is to always remember that you are for everyone on this planet, not just for yourself and your children. It’s like any social justice movement. Either you’re fighting for everyone, including — first and foremost — the most marginalized, the most in jeopardy, or you’re essentially a hate movement. If you’re thinking first and foremost about the safety and survival of comfortable middle-class white people living in North America then that is white supremacist climate activism.
What do you hope readers will take away from “Witches.”
West: Hope! Hope and action and accountability. It’s really easy, particularly if you live a relatively privileged life, to fall into despair right now, or to fall into denial, and it’s desperately important that people stay engaged and live in the truth, because we still have time to fight for the world that we want. I find that anger can be really productive, and humor can be really productive. I want people to get angry and get active and start now.
How does it feel to have Aidy Bryant playing the Annie version of you in “Shrill”?
West: She’s a dream, obviously! A true angel and just a staggering talent. I can’t wait for people to see what she brings in season 2.
You juggle duties as executive director and writer for the show. With those two jobs, what have they given you that writing your memoir hasn’t?
West: Writing a book is incredibly solitary. It’s just you and the page. Even with an editor, ultimately you’re accountable for every word. Making TV is a massive collaboration. There are hundreds of people working together to bring this project to life — the writers room, the art department, the crew, the studio, the network. I love it. It’s almost therapeutic for me, after working alone for so long.
You will be in Frederick to make an appearance. What are you planning to discuss that day with the audience?
West: I will read from the book and then take audience questions, my favorite thing! Not being sarcastic, I think I really shine in a Q&A. Come see!
What are you working on next? Another book? Another series?
West: All of the above, hopefully! Hoping to get more seasons of Shrill, and I have about a million ideas for other projects piling up. Keep an eye on my Instagram (@thelindywest) and my website (http://www.lindywest.net/)!
Follow Crystal Schelle on Twitter: @crystalschelle.