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Genius Awards 2016

The 2016 Stranger Genius Awards!

Barbara Earl Thomas

Rob Rhee

Mario Lemafa

Silas Blak

Erik Blood

Sandy Cioffi

Hardly Art Records

Mel Eslyn

Noelani Pantastico

Tracy Rector

Emily Chisholm

Wave Books

That'swhatshesaid

Robert Lashley

IS:

Extremely funny.

USED TO:

Work at The Stranger.

RECENTLY:

Published a memoir, Shrill, about her "transformation from a terror-stricken mouse-person to an unflappable human vuvuzela."


Lindy West used to be shy. It's hard to imagine. When she was an intern at The Stranger in 2005, she hardly said a word. It was only after she starting writing theater reviews and then movie reviews that the full force of her one-of-a-kind mind—and, specifically, her gift at humor—became clear.

She's brain-meltingly funny. Her debut memoir, Shrill, tries to answer the question about how she got less shy in a chapter called "How to Stop Being Shy in Eighteen Easy Steps." It turns out that there aren't exactly 18 steps and that she has no advice: "Women ask me, 'How did you find your voice? How can I find mine?' and I desperately want to help, but the truth is, I don't know... Every human being is a wet, gassy katamari of triumphs, traumas, scars, coping mechanisms, parental baggage, weird stuff you saw on the internet too young, pressure from your grandma to take over the bodega when what you really want to do is dance, and all the other fertilizer that makes a smear of DNA grow..."

Much of Shrill concerns misogyny, fat acceptance, and internet trolls. The other day at her house in Columbia City, we were talking about how political her work became after The Stranger—she went on to be a staff writer for Jezebel, and she's now a weekly columnist for the Guardian—and she said she misses the days of writing about Sex and the City 2.

"I miss being funny," she said. "I certainly never thought I would be a political writer. I don't know anything about politics." She clarified: "I think of my job as calling attention to perspectives that get overlooked. We still think of straight white dudes as the baseline standard 'person,' and media and politics reflect that. I think of it as my job to remind people there is no default human being."

And then she said, "Next book: no feelings, no politics, all jokes."

She grew up in Seattle and went to Garfield High School, like her parents. At Occidental College in Los Angeles, her favorite writers were Herman Melville, William Faulkner, and Toni Morrison. She moved back to Seattle and got a job at City People's Mercantile, where "one of my bosses was Martha Plimpton's mom, Shelley." Lindy's father was the jazz musician Paul West, who introduced her to music and comedy records. "I know a lot of novelty songs because of my dad," West said. "I can sing Tom Lehrer's 'The Elements.' That's my party trick."

You will mainly find her writing in generic, uncool coffee shops: "If somewhere has too much character, it's disgusting. I work at Starbucks a lot, which I know is scandalous." She wouldn't want to live in New York City, calling it "pretension Olympics." She loves Seattle: "When I'm on a plane coming into Seattle and I see Seattle, my blood pressure drops."

Watch Lindy West's acceptance speech here, and look at photos from the party here.