... sharp and engrossing ... Fowler’s revelations came eight months before The New York Times and The New Yorker published explosive allegations about Harvey Weinstein’s serial abuse of women, and helped catalyze the #MeToo movement. What is less well known is the remarkable back story that came before Fowler found herself at the center of these newsworthy events ... Fowler does not provide a satisfactory explanation as to why she was unable to attend the local high school—one of several moments in her story when infuriating or baffling things happen to her that seem to be presented in an oversimplified or one-sided manner, which undermines the strength of her narrative ... Whistleblower is a powerful illustration of the obstacles our society continues to throw up in the paths of ambitious young women, and the ways that institutions still protect and enable badly behaving men.
In one way, the memoir is an expansion of the 2017 blog post: It documents, in detail that is deeper and more gut-wrenching than a 2,900-word entry could allow, Fowler’s experiences at Uber. It recounts casual sexism and casual racism and, as Maureen Dowd put it in an article about Fowler’s original post, 'the self-indulgent, adolescent Pleasure Island mentality of Silicon Valley.' But Whistleblower, despite its subtitle’s reference to Uber, is also a memoir in the classic sense. It is the story of how Fowler’s life was shaped by her time at Uber—but a story, too, of her fight for a life that would not succumb to the company's influence ... Throughout, Fowler wrestles with the tension between the two modes: Fowler as a person famous for one thing, versus Fowler as a person, full stop. The book succeeds precisely in its acknowledgment that the two figures cannot be meaningfully disentangled from each other. Fowler’s story—her full story—is the indictment. That is what gives Whistleblower its power ... Whistleblower and its fellow memoirs, however, are not so tidy. They may have clear villains, and they may share a general goal...their intimacy, however, complicates them. Their intimacy acknowledges how difficult it is, when you’re talking about systems, to separate the act of whistleblowing from the more basic act of storytelling. Where does the one end and the other begin?
Exceptionalism is one of Silicon Valley’s founding principles, and a little bit of that has crept into Fowler’s book. There is no denying that she has been incredibly brave, and her life story is one of David against many, many Goliaths. But there is a danger in overstating the power that one individual has. Silicon Valley is defined by systemic ills ... Susan Fowler is as interesting a person as you could imagine ... her account is a memoir, meaning that she is writing about her experiences and convictions; her book isn’t meant to wrestle with the bigger, systemic questions about technology and capitalism. But as readers, we are left with only a partial view of the issues afflicting Silicon Valley and, in fact, most workplaces ... If only all people could be as exceptional as [Fowler]—but in a more just world, they wouldn’t have to be.
The memoir...[provides] more eyebrow-raising details about just how hostile and chaotic Uber's workplace was. But Fowler is much more interested in unpacking how — and why — she responded by going public ... Fowler spends little time on her youth, which some readers may find disappointing, and aside from a partial biography of her father, she never fleshes out her siblings or parents into characters ... Fowler's occasionally eye-popping account of life at Uber ends with her making the leap to another job and reflecting seriously on her ethical obligations before deciding to speak out. In the anxious months after she went public with her story, she says she was followed and investigated by Uber goons. But the story does not end with Uber's triumphant revenge: Fowler emphasizes that she's thriving in every way possible ... This memoir is a bit of a how-to book, too, with some take-home lessons for anyone discouraged by a hostile workplace.
Fowler’s own book is framed as a broad fight for equality, an act of resistance for all women, yet it’s a distinctive form of struggle—closely linked to the idea of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. Fowler’s focus is resolutely individualistic; her sources of inspiration are willpower, aptitude, and a sense of personal responsibility. And though Whistleblower shows starkly how gender discrimination warps women’s careers, it also struggles to admit that this idea of meritocracy was a farce to begin with ... she fails to see that the forces that kept sending her life careening in a new direction are structural. They mean not that she wasn’t given a fair shot at meritocracy, but that we don’t live in one ... She wants Uber to 'stop breaking the law' and to fix itself; she thinks it is 'broken, unable to do the right thing.' But that assumes that it wasn’t operating exactly as intended in a patriarchal society that values men’s achievements over women’s humanity. It assumes that our current structures are set up to allow anyone the same chance to get ahead, if only they were applied correctly.
Fowler...has released a memoir...that includes a detailed and even grimmer look into her year at Uber ... Fowler revises the Uber story by showing—through exasperating interaction after exasperating interaction with superiors and human resources employees—just how ugly it could be for its workers ... The most eye-opening and maddening allegations in the memoir largely have to do with how Uber’s HR representatives repeatedly stonewalled and lied to Fowler in almost every interaction she had with them ... While other accounts about Uber have tended to focus on Kalanick, he only appears briefly in person at a Christmas party in Fowler’s memoir and doesn’t say a word. Yet the noxious norms of the company he molded are omnipresent throughout the book and seem to shape most every interaction that Fowler describes .... Whistleblower fills us in on how junior white-collar employees struggled to keep the culture he instilled from threatening their sanity, and how one of them was eventually able to tear it down.