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It’s a shy word, a timid little word that begs to remain unnoticed. Only three letters long, and it begins with an exhortation to silence. Shhh. Reserved is different. It’s for tall men with jutting jaws. Prime ministers can appear reserved: never shy. Restrained carries itself with dignity. Even introvert has a whiff of authority about it: these people have been tested; Myers and Briggs have awarded them an impressive three-syllable psychological label. But with shy there’s no authority, no control. It’s a blushing, hunching word; a nervous, knock-kneed, wallflower word. A word for children, not grown-ups, because surely grown-ups grow out of shyness. Don’t they?

Sian Prior has maintained a career in the public eye, as a broadcaster and performer, for more than twenty years. For far longer than that she has suffered from excruciating shyness. Eventually, after bolting from a party in a state of near-panic, she decides to investigate her condition. What is it—shyness? Where did hers come from? Why does it create such distressing turmoil beneath her assured professional front?

As Sian begins to research the science of social anxiety, other factors present themselves as facets of the problem. Family, intimate friendships, self-perception and fear and longing and the consequences of love… While, in counterpoint, there is the security, the sense of belonging, she finds in the life she shares with Tom, her famous partner. Until he tells her he is leaving.

Shy: A Memoir—frank, provocative, remarkable in its clarity and beautifully written—is a book about unease: about questioning who you are and evading the answer. It is about grief, and abandonment and loss. It is about how the simple word shy belies the complex reality of what that really means.

Read Sian Prior's article about shyness in the classroom, published in Age Education.


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Sian Prior
About the Author

Sian Prior is a Melbourne-based writer, broadcaster, musician and creative-writing teacher. She has been an ABC radio host and a regular columnist for the Age/Sydney Morning Herald. Her first book, Shy: a memoir was published in 2014.

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Text publication date:
28 May 2014
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Praise for Sian Prior

‘A fascinating meditation on how temperament can shape a person’s life.’

‘A fascinating and engaging read.’

‘Charming and beautifully evoked…’

‘The book interweaves psychological theory with personal experience in an intelligent and sophisticated manner…Shy is also a finely observed piece of writing. Prior captures details with prose equal to a skilled novelist…a deeply satisfying inquiry into the nature of self.‘

‘A memoir that’s heartfelt, sometimes entertaining, occasionally moving, and broadly informative.’

Shy: A Memoir is warm and objective, funny and sad, and philosophical and informative…based on the beauty of this book, Prior could clearly write brilliantly about anything she likes…Shy is a book that you will want to simultaneously devour in one sitting and yet savour for weeks. It is at once genuinely intimate and yet universal in its application. It is the type of effortless read that must have taken a great deal of effort to write.’ 4.5 out of 5 stars

Shy is a dynamic read…A book that rolls and moves and draws you along for the ride.’

Other editions ofShy
Other Titles bySian Prior