Amy Schumer starts her highly-anticipated essay collection off with a lie. Right there in the introduction — emphasis hers — she writes, “I also want to clarify that this book has NO SELF-HELP INFO OR ADVICE FOR YOU.” But I have to disagree. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo is full of advice—and not just the tongue-in-cheek kind you might expect from a stand-up comedian.
She implores women to get out of abusive relationships, using her own horrifically traumatic experience as an example. She urges current and future parents to teach their sons (and daughters) what really constitutes sexual assault and rape after writing about her own, which lends even deeper gravitas to her “Football Town Nights” sketch from Inside Amy Schumer, in which high school football players are shocked at their coach’s ban on rape. She dedicates an entire chapter to preventing gun violence and memorializing the two women killed at a Louisiana screening of Trainwreck. She extols the importance of a work ethic as obsessive and all-consuming as Tina Fey’s or Mindy Kaling’s. And she even includes a quick how-to paragraph for any ladies who haven’t yet figured out how to pleasure themselves.
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo is laugh-out-loud funny when Schumer wants it to be (on a halitosis-stricken rabbi: “What did he eat for breakfast? I thought. An adult diaper? A cadaver?“), but more often, it’s surprisingly honest and raw — much more like a straightforward memoir than even she appears to believe. She opens up about her fraught relationship with her mother, who Schumer paints as manipulative and damaged. The most heartbreaking sections, though, focus on her father’s painful struggle with multiple sclerosis, and the agony of watching a beloved parent lose his ability to walk — and in dark moments, his will to push on.
If you’re here for humor, of course, you won’t be disappointed. Same for juicy drops of gossip — they’re in there (if anyone knows the identity of the sweet, sensitive rock star Schumer briefly dated, please email me). But on the whole, this book is far less a portable joke factory than it is a real, deep dive into Schumer’s life, and what it’s like to be an imperfect woman and content and proud of yourself despite that. She didn’t try to write Bossypants 2 or Not That Kind of Girl, Either but something entirely her own, and entirely—for her as much as for us—necessary. B+