The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo review: a friendly chat with Amy Schumer over a glass of wine (or a bottle and a half)

Amy Schumer’s hilarious debut is neither a self-help book nor a memoir – so pour yourself some wine, order a takeaway and tune in for the conversation with a painfully honest friend instead.

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There’s a handful of books from female comedians that people keep on raving about. I took a plunge into Lena Durham’s Not That Kind Of Girl a while ago, Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Mindy Calling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?. The next one I picked up was by one of my favourites who I follow since I had a chance to watch Trainwreck (author’s self-deprecating comment: yeah Kasia, we knew her before she was mainstream, who the heck do you think you are?!). And I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t pat me on the back for the opening sentence – as she talks about hating the notion of “the woman in Hollywood” and pseudo-feminist questions that accompanied her press tour for the said movie, she stresses she hates the distinction, which is sadly still exercised by many journalists. A female comedian. A female actress, or a director. A female IT engineer. A female builder. A female manager. It stretches ahead outside of showbiz, too, and as we’re reassured by media that the gender pay gap will be around until we retire, with every single story she tells we’re shown how much we can grow and change by just being ourselves.

In the intro, the comedian hits the caps lock right before the “no self-help or advice” point. But, in the following sentence, she states, “what I can help you with is showing you my mistakes and my pain and my laughter”. Amy pinpoints different events from her life that a lot of people can relate to in her book  – and her reassuring confessions are a powerful confidence boost that everyone needs sometimes. It’s an insight into the comedian’s life, told in her usual, sassy, bantery ways – and it’s difficult not to read the book imagining her speaking to the audience from the stage with the usual energy when she shares her anecdotes.

So many stories that everyone can relate to are bound together between three hundred pages of her writing. There’s plenty of things to pick from: be it the unglamorous side of customer service jobs that you pick up on the way to a better life, countless relationship and one night stand anecdotes, staying in a beloved city and moving around a lot in hopes for the best, finding your life’s calling, or willing to hustle (and enjoying your earnings, but also sharing the happiness!). She’s relatable, and she can make readers laugh at their own lives, too – with a lot of amusingly served advice and hope that things will change for the better eventually if you put enough effort in.

In a few tougher, but some of the most moving parts of the book, she openly and honestly discusses her father’s SM struggle, a tough relationship with her mother, the matter of consent, and the issue of gun control in America, encouraging the readers to get involved. A chapter called The Worst Night of My Life explains that not only intimidated, insecure women can end up in an abusive relationship. The vicious circle of taking the emotional and physical cruelty, hurled at her in the short pauses for less stormy moments, is a potent eye-opener. It makes every effort to awaken the courage of those who are being victimised behind the closed doors and to plead for empathy and awareness to look out for each other.

The chapters made out of Amy’s journal entries, where she comments on the notes written by her thirteen, eighteen, twenty and twenty-two-year-old self, are also very powerful. She jots her remarks down as footnotes, stepping back from what she thought of the described situations at the time, and shares experiences and explanations that project her future and preannounce stories which are yet to be told. To start with, she tells us about the moments when her family was about to get torn apart, and how the coping mechanism of a teenager switches on in such a situation. Her take on her sister’s eating disorder and her self-esteem summary are also relevant to the experiences of many girls who are striving for perfection – served with a commentary with enough perspective, that, ironically, show also how the eating disorders are misunderstood by many young peers of ED sufferers, too.

As her onstage personality is a bubbly, energetic self, it’s easy for the audience to label her as someone who’s constantly ready to share her energy. This is why it’s so soothing to read an introversion confession coming from someone whose cheerful and outgoing persona is almost a trademark. The explanation of what it really means is a great take on a negative stereotype. You don’t have to be a shy, awkward loner – you just need to regain the energy that you exchange with the others in the social settings. You are free to take your time off to be a lively self, and you are more than welcome to prefer deep conversations to mindless small talk, she encourages the readers.

Without a doubt, The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo is a manifesto of an outspoken, modern girl, without any unnecessary fluff and beating around the bush. She’s straightforward, speaks about what she learned, and doesn’t care in the slightest about what everyone else thinks. As she says, “it’s hard to write a book and not get yelled at” – and that honesty creates an atmosphere of an intimate conversation with a friend (with a lot of pizza and pasta at once late at night, and some Chardonnay, too). And she convinces you with every story she shares that it’s time for you to take control, love yourself and own what you’re doing – brutally honest, but you know how true it is.

Kasia Kwasniewska

Editor in Chief

Passionate about far too many things. Loves reading, watching films, eyeing (and producing) good design, listening to music and stuffing her face with chocolate on a daily basis. Cooks from time to time, and drinks far too much coffee to be a normal human being.
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