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This week was our first Literally meeting of 2020, and I can say, without a doubt, that it was our best one yet! Our lovely longtime member, Sara, hosted us at the Universal Standard store in Portland.

The gorgeous Universal Standard Portland location

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the brand, Universal Standard was founded on the principle of “Revolutionary Inclusivity,” and the goal of becoming “the world’s most inclusive brand.” Set on the second floor a beautiful old bakery building, Universal Standard Portland radiates both serenity and furniture I really want. All apparel pieces are available from sizes 00-40, and their in-store shopping experience is super innovative. Shopping is an appointment-based 1:1 experience with a stylist, purchased pieces are shipped to you, and the hyperlocal nature of the space is designed to foster connections within the community. Event-hosting is encouraged, so we were more than happy to make use of such a beautiful venue for book club!

Our first book of 2020 was Shrill by Lindy West. Things happened serendipitously, as Lindy is a friend to Universal Standard, and the Hulu show based on Lindy’s memoirs, Shrill (starring Aidy Bryant) just released its second season and was filmed in Portland. Full circle!

Lindy’s first memoir is a collection of essays centered around her experience as an outspoken woman living in a fat body. From heated (and very public) disagreements with her boss, famed columnist Dan Savage, about mainstream society’s perception of fatness to her experience jumping over hurdles to get an abortion, Lindy shouts her positions loud and proud.

Deep in discussion!

The book was written in 2016, so we felt that - in 2020 - some of the topics didn’t feel so “new,” but putting Lindy’s work as an activist into perspective was pretty amazing. Her breakout essay, “Hello, I am Fat,” was published in 2011, long before most of us were having open dialogue about all bodies being beautiful. One of our readers, Melinda, mentioned re-reading her essay after reading Shrill, and being struck by some of the comments - they’re a mix of love, support, trolls and goons. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go. 2011 was a whopping nine years ago, and considering how quickly our culture is moving, Lindy was a true pioneer in the fat acceptance movement.

Another topic we spent some time with was our perceived need for womxn writers to, as we put it, address the patriarchy. Do authors like Lindy feel stifled in their writing, or feel compelled to address the issues all of us non-males are facing today? If we were living in another time, say 100 years in the future, would Lindy have felt more freedom to express things that were important to her as a human, as a woman?

Shrill is a passionate battle-cry for those of us who are looking for insight into self-advocacy. From her battles with trolls (which - spoiler alert - she wins), to her confrontations with jerks on airplanes, Lindy reminds us that standing up for ourselves feels fucking great, and we should all be doing more of it.

Looking forward to announcing our February book next week!

Happy reading!


P.S. So far, Universal Standard has stores in New York, Houston, Seattle, Portland, and Chicago. If you live outside those cities and are interested in virtual styling, they offer it at their website!

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