Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Read by Phoebe Robinson
Published October 2016 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: my audiobook copy checked out from my local library
Being a black woman in America means contending with old prejudices and fresh absurdities every day. Comedian Phoebe Robinson has experienced her fair share over the years: she's been unceremoniously relegated to the role of “the black friend,” as if she is somehow the authority on all things racial; she's been questioned about her love of U2 and Billy Joel (“isn’t that...white people music?”); she's been called “uppity” for having an opinion in the workplace; she's been followed around stores by security guards; and yes, people do ask her whether they can touch her hair all. the. time. Now, she's ready to take these topics to the page—and she’s going to make you laugh as she’s doing it.
Using her trademark wit alongside pop-culture references galore, Robinson explores everything from why Lisa Bonet is “Queen. Bae. Jesus,” to breaking down the terrible nature of casting calls, to giving her less-than-traditional advice to the future female president, and demanding that the NFL clean up its act, all told in the same conversational voice that launched her podcast, 2 Dope Queens, to the top spot on iTunes. As personal as it is political, You Can't Touch My Hair examines our cultural climate and skewers our biases with humor and heart, announcing Robinson as a writer on the rise.
I was not familiar with Robinson before I read this book, although I had heard of her podcast/HBO show 2 Dope Queens. But you know that I'm trying to educate myself so I decided to pick this book up after seeing it around the blogosphere. An education is exactly what I got from a lady who knows how to blend serious subjects with humor and down right funny stories.
Robinson opens the book talking about black people's hair - the ways it has been used to make statements, the way her feelings about her own hair have changed over the years, and the way black people's hair has been used as a weapon against them. Robinson writes about wishing she were the girl with the great hair but she also acknowledges that she can play with her hair in all kinds of ways. Google images of Robinson and you will see that she takes full advantage of her options.
Perhaps my favorite part of this book were the letters Robinson wrote to her now very young niece, who is half black (which, given the content of many of them, we can only hope she won't read for a good long while!). Robinson wants to make sure her niece understands the good things about her black heritage and gives her some heads up about how to make her way through the world as a black woman. And then, hilariously, brings in comedian John Hodgman to explain the good things about being white.
I was educated, I was amused, and I often found myself nodding in agreement. All of which is a good thing in an essay collection and makes this book well worth a listen. Now I need to find the print copy I have somewhere on my shelves because as much as you gain somethings by listening to a book, you also miss out on all of the pictures.
My only, small issue with the book is this: after several similar books in the past few months, there is starting to be cadence and manner of speaking that feels like the funny ladies I'm listening to have all gone to the same "how to read your book" school. If I was more familiar with Robinson, I would know if what I heard here was true to Robinson's style. I suppose I should just go download some @ Dope Queens and find out...and educate myself some more.