Not if — but when — you pick up Amy Schumer’s new collection of personal essays, “Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo,” leave your expectations at the cover.
If you're just looking for a juicy tell-all of endless, alcohol-infused, raucous sexcapades, you're going to be disappointed.
Without setting off the #spoileralert, Schumer's new book begins as more books should, with an open letter to her vagina. And sure, she's had a one-night stand (only one one-night stand, it should be noted), which she recounts with just as much romance and a heck of a lot more feminism as any Disney princess movie.
While many a personal essay and — bless Schumer's unfiltered heart — annotated journal entry discusses her sex life, it's not the defining, or even most memorable, characteristic of her book.
Instead, what readers should expect is, well, the unexpected.
No one should be surprised by this, but many, I imagine, already have been or will be. It should go without saying that a smart, hard-working, and talented woman can and will and did write a book that discusses more than her relationships with men. It should go without saying that a person capable of writing a movie, a sketch TV show, and, oh yeah, a book all around the same time frame, is more interesting than her sex life.
But Schumer is, after all, a woman and — despite the long list of female comedians and actresses turned authors that have come before her — the world might still need a little reminder.
And that's exactly why it's so crucial that her book's subject matter ventures into uncharted territory.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, her memoir contains perpetually important lessons in sexual freedom, body positivity, and overall female empowerment that builds on the work of other women writers. That, in itself, is no small task.
While that dialogue should always continue, Schumer has also taken advantage of this latest platform to start new dialogues about complex and controversial topics such as sexual assault, domestic abuse, terminal illness, and gun violence. She deliberately dove head first into the murky waters surrounding these issues, knowing she might make an audience that has become accustomed to her stage persona or her semi-autobiographical character in Trainwreck uncomfortable.
Good. They should be. She was.
Being able to relate personally to all three issues, Schumer is unflinchingly and unapologetically vulnerable. With an admirable balance of humor and honesty, Schumer lays herself bare for her own self-discovery, as well as that of her readers.
In doing so, she isn't always funny. Though Schumer seems partial to the "J" and "K" buttons on her keyboard, she will sacrifice a joke to make a point. But that's not a weakness of the work or its author — it's a strength. As Schumer herself says, "I'm a strong, grown-ass woman who's been physically, sexually, and emotionally abused by men and women I trusted and cared about ... my vulnerability is my ultimate strength."
She isn’t always looking for the next opportunity to crack wise. Sometimes, she just cracks.
But she generously lets the reader into those cracks to look around and encourages them to find and embrace those same cracks in themselves. "Many people think I have this unshakable confidence, so I hope this look into my most intimate thoughts will support the idea that loving yourself takes time," she writes in a footnote to one of her journal entries.
This "Beautiful and Strong" woman proves there's no shame in breaking. On the contrary, sometimes it's the only, best, strongest thing a person can do.
Those who finish her book and just remember her jokes or her romantic life will have missed the point. Yes, they are there, but even the lightest anecdote can carry a deeper message, and that's what the reader should be thinking about when they close the back cover. It's what they should talk to their friends about when they're hungover at brunch and have already exhausted the latest Kardashian gossip.
The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo is not the Amy Schumer many fans may anticipate — or even want — her to be. She is, instead, the actual Amy Schumer, a far more interesting, nuanced, and complicated person.
She may not be what you expect, but — if you give her the chance to be more — she will not disappoint you.