You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

Review:

You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain - Phoebe Robinson,Jessica WilliamsI might have fallen in love with Robinson a little bit while listening to her read this amazing audiobook. I’m sure reading it for myself would have been fun but the audio was SO GOOD. It’s definitely the way to go.

A hilarious and timely essay collection about race, gender, and pop culture from upcoming comedy superstar and 2 Dope Queens podcaster Phoebe Robinson

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 do, however, recommend reading Between the World and Me first, if you plan on reading both and haven’t read that one already. Not only does she reference it at least once, but the information is complimentary without being identical and Coates’s work was much more serious and gave a lot of history to both his topics and hers. That said, if you were not already going to read Between the World and Me, it is not essential to understanding this book whatsoever. Reading it first is just a recommendation from me. I read them in that order and feel like reading the funny first would have led me to not enjoy the serious as much.

I had decided that I absolutely had to read this one from the second I read the title. I have had issues with people touching my hair, though for different reasons. I get the irritation that comes with having to explain to people not to touch you. Since she is a comic by trade, I’m sure you expect this work to be funny, so I won’t go on and on about how hilariously the book handled each topic. I will say that it did very much remind me of the way it has been pointed out in All the Rebel Women that it is a big part of this fourth wave of feminism that women are increasingly using humor to make our points and that the stand-up comic arena has become a feminist platform that is making headway.

I would normally tell you which essay was my favorite, but it’s hard to choose. There’s a moment or two in each that really makes it hard to pick a favorite. I think the one that I really need to remember the most, though, is the Angry Black Woman. I’ve never accused a black woman of being angry, but Robinson’s issue makes perfect sense. Personally, it sounds like the dumbest thing to do because I feel like it makes a not angry person upset to call them angry but I get that it’s a tactic to try to shut black women down and done for exactly this reason. I’ve had similar issues with other words associated with bitchy. My internal response is either “Oh, you want a bitch, you’ll get one” or “WTF, that wasn’t bitchy at all” and then feeling bad that something could have been offensive. I’m working on it, though, because that’s a ridiculous response to someone who is also just trying to shut me down, but I didn’t know that for a long time.

I’m also pretty familiar with the black friend dynamic. I’ve had done that to people (not proud to say I’ve done that to friends but it’s true) and I’ve had people try to make me the Hispanic/Latin friend. The joke was always on them, though, because all the things people want a Latin friend for I can’t do or am horrible at, like cooking Latin foods, dancing, speaking Spanish. It’s become it’s own source of entertainment for me. The essay on the usage of uppity was also different while being familiar. I’ve heard people say it before, but I’d never put it together that way and it makes so much more sense and feels like it should be obvious. As a girl who is also mixed, I particularly appreciated her letter to Olivia about being mixed and appreciating both heritages and both cultures. That was not something that I was taught growing up and I had to gradually come to appreciate my Hispanic side. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, just the way the insecurities of multiple people around me played out.

It’s a little cute when she calls herself old because I’ve felt that way at work too. I’m a smidge older than her, but it’s been happening since around her age at the time of her writing. Being that we are fairly contemporary, I got almost all the pop culture references. I had really started to think that I was the last person on the planet that remembered the show the West Wing, so her references to that show and C.J. Craig were especially fun for me.

I had a little bit of a book hangover when I was done and YouTubed some of her shorter video’s for a while as I was trying to concentrate on writing this review. I look forward to watching/reading whatever else she does in the future and checking out her podcast 2 Dope Queens soon.

As usual, I borrowed the book from the library but click on the cover to go to BookLikes for purchase options if you’re in the buying mood.

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