As you may have noticed, it took me longer to finish and write about this book, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer, than it did both other books in my Guilty Pleasure Reading Series. (It’s Not Okay by Andi Dorfman and Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari.) But I want you to know the extended time frame has nothing to do with my level of interest, and instead reflects the weather. Summer turned to fall, which means my dedicated reading time decreased by 75%. I basically only read on the beach. (Except when I lived in NYC and needed to pass the time on the train.)
With that in consideration, I’m actually impressed with how fast I finished this book. It’s all about perspective, people!
Amy is a pretty crude comedian, and notoriously rude/haughty behind-the-scenes in the entertainment industry, according to a few friends of mine who’ve worked with her on set. Thus, I wasn’t expecting to like her by the end of the book. Of course, that ended up being stupid assumption…even considering she wrote that she can’t stand people who go to Starbucks to write. And that is exactly where I am right now.
She not only had the tough job of needing to make me laugh, which can be challenging when I have high expectations for humor (she even mentioned this exact hurdle comedians have to tackle—to make people laugh who are focused on whether or not you’re worth laughing at), but she also had to overcome preconceived notions I had about her personality. I must say, she did a stand up job of succeeding at both.
As I’m sure was much to her intent, I felt that Amy’s book was written with a tremendous amount of vulnerability wrapped in humor, which resulted in tons of “I can relate” moments. Even with experiences to which I couldn’t relate, she expressed herself in a way that felt extremely genuine, which is the sign of a great writer, but also can’t really be taught. When reading Andi’s book, I thought she was very “real,” but not exactly someone who “gets it.” “Getting it” is a hard notion to explain, but all I can say is that Amy really gets it.
From the get go, she explained herself as a hard core introvert, which immediately rectified half of the stories I’ve heard about her. At least to me, since I’m also an introvert who is often mistaken for an extrovert because I’m very good at talking. It makes a lot of sense to me that she seems standoffish or withdrawn at times, which can come across as arrogant, especially when people assume you’re normally really social. Which you are…sometimes. It’s a very confusing world for us extroverted introverts.
In reality, she probably needs time to recharge, and has to be very intentional and obvious about taking that time since her life doesn’t build in a whole lot of quiet and privacy. Anyway, I’m glad this was one of her first talking points in the book, because I was able to enjoy the rest without feeling like I was falling for a mean girl’s attempt to seem funny and cool. I understood her from the beginning—at least, I understood that very influential part of her.
Throughout the book, she touches on a lot of serious subjects, but all with an amazing flare of empathy, humor, and a “that’s life” attitude. From her father’s battle with multiple sclerosis, to sexual assault, to gun violence, she really uses her voice to shed light on issues close to her heart, but does so in a way that manages not to offend. Another sign of an excellent writer, a socially conscious celebrity, and a very smart comedian.
I should also mention that it was very clear to me that she actually wrote this book—just like it was clear to me that Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey wrote their books without ghost writers, too. I guess that makes sense since comedians are professional writers, especially those who have television shows. There’s no denying that this book certainly felt less forced than books “written” by other types of celebrities.
And did Amy make me laugh? Oh my gosh, yes. When she was describing how she’s prone to blacking out while drinking, I was shaking with laughter. Don’t worry, she makes it clear that drinking to the point of not remembering is terrible, and hasn’t done so since college…except once, by accident. She explains what happened (according to her boyfriend) that one night she blacked out in her 30s, and while I know the overarching issue of blacking out isn’t funny, her delivery absolutely killed me.
This probably has a lot to do with how much I can relate…I, too, have learned that I have to be extra careful with how much I drink, because I begin to forget my night way, way, way faster than anyone else I’ve ever met. This even goes for nights on the couch with my significant other, which was also the scenario for Amy’s only post college blackout (at age 34). I’ve learned to ignore people when they make fun of how slowly I drink—usually only 2-4 drinks total on “big” going out nights—because I know that’s the only way I will remember anything. It’s pretty scary, actually. Plus I’m just a slow drinker by nature. I’ve never—not once—been able to finish an entire smoothie from Tropical Smoothie. Drinking that much takes a lot of will power from me. Anyway, the point is that, yes, I laughed. A lot. She is hilarious, tackling serious subjects with amazing humor, but always wrapping things up with a life lesson.
Amy’s ability to paint pictures in your head was the greatest part about the book—and what made it so funny, yet poignant. As she described her love for New York, I felt like I was right back in the midst of my two year life in Manhattan. As she described her tattoo experience with her little sister, I felt like I witnessed the entire thing. As she described meeting a hot guy on an airplane, I could completely put myself in her shoes (up to a certain point). Her inner dialogue during every scenario was absolutely hysterical.
Throughout the whole thing, you feel like you got incredible insight to her psyche, plus gifted with this beautiful awareness that you’re not alone. She takes her battles and makes them very emotionally tangible, helping any reader find a way to reflect the lessons or stories back into his/her own life.
Perhaps I just had a lot in common with her, from living in New York to being an extroverted introvert to watching a parent physically deteriorate, but I still think people with less aligned lives would be able to draw a lot of comfort and humor from Amy’s words.
If you can’t look past crude language or graphic descriptions, don’t read this book. However, if you want insight to how Amy Schumer became famous and what that fame is like, read this book. If you want to laugh a lot, read this book. If you need to find some levity in your trials of life, read this book. If you want to feel less alone, read this book.
I want to end by sharing this quote she wrote about the multitudes and contradictions of the human condition, specifically hers. I found it deeply profound, a truth that can be edited to reflect each and every one of our lives.
“…I contain multitudes and I always will. I’m a level-one introvert who headlined Madison Square Garden—and was the first woman comic to do so. I’m the ‘overnight success’ who’s worked her ass off every single waking moment for more than a decade. I used to shoplift the kind of clothing that people now request I wear to give them free publicity. I’m the slut or skank who’s only had one one-night stand. I’m a ‘plus-size’ 6 on a good day, and a medium-size 10 on an even better day. I’ve suffered the identical indignities of slinging rib eyes for a living and hustling laughs for cash. I’m a strong, grown-ass woman who’s been physically, sexually, and emotionally abused by men and women I trusted and cared about. I’ve broken hearts and had mine broken, too.
Beautiful, ugly, funny, boring, smart or not, my vulnerability is my ultimate strength. There’s nothing anyone can say about me that’s more permanent, damaging, or hideous than the statement I have forever tattooed upon myself. I’m proud of this ability to laugh at myself—even if everyone can see my tears, just like they can see my dumb, senseless, whack, lame lower back tattoo.”
Now I’m off to read Girl on the Train before the movie leaves theatres! Happy reading, all.