“You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have To Explain” by Phoebe Robinson (2016)
Genre: Nonfiction, Humor, Essay, Memoir
Page Length: 318 pages (electronic review copy)
A hilarious and affecting essay collection about race, gender, and pop culture from celebrated stand-up comedian and WNYC podcaster Phoebe Robinson.
Phoebe Robinson is a stand-up comic, which means that, often, her everyday experiences become points of comedic fodder. And as a black woman in America, she maintains, sometimes you need to have a sense of humor to deal with the absurdity you are handed on the daily. 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.”
You Can’t Touch My Hair is a book that sets out to entertain and educate its readers about being a POC (person of color) in today’s society. Being that I could relate to this topic, I eagerly sought out this book as I was excited for the topics it would discuss.
The introduction for this book sets up the topics that will be discussed throughout the text. Not only is the intro is funny, but Phoebe’s casual voice make readers feel at ease while getting to know a little bit about her background. She tells her readers that while this book will make you laugh out loud, it will also touch on some serious issues in today’s society.
Each chapter is its own essay on a variety of topics. One chapter is set around the politics of black hair and the choice to have natural hair vs. relaxed hair. Phoebe talks about her own personal hair journey and urges readers to do whatever makes you feel beautiful inside and out. Another chapter discusses things that need to change for the better: racial profiling when shopping, the NFL’s treatment of women, gender equality, etc. And some chapters have a more lighthearted tone when she talks about her guilty pleasures such as ordering too much food at McDonald’s.
I loved her sarcastic, but realistic and comedic tone on the topics she discusses, from issues that are lighthearted to the more serious. At times, I wish she had explained things more in-depth or gave better background to the historical and pop culture things she references as it led to some confusion. A few things that she mentioned I was unfamiliar with and I think giving a more detailed explanation would have helped.
All in all, I enjoyed this book so much! Many of the topics were relatable to my own life experiences and I liked that while it was humorous it was also thought-provoking. Even though she rambled in her writing at times, it didn’t stop me from devouring this book. I highly recommend reading this book!
FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.