Review: You Can’t Touch My Hair by Pheobe Robinson

you-cantReview: You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson (Plume Books, 320 pages)

Goodreads synopsis: 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. . . 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.”

Recommended for: Readers of humor memoirs such as Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, anyone looking for diverse authors/women authors, those who seriously need to stop asking to touch a black woman’s hair, etc. Basically everyone should read this.

Phoebe Robinson is the creator and cohost of podcast 2 Dope Queens and is a gem of a comedian. Her hilarious, down-to-earth voice on the intersection of sexism and racism in comedy (and everywhere) is refreshing and, albeit sadly, so needed. This exposition of pop culture, gender, race told in very charming, conversational essay form is highly entertaining and thought-provoking. In an age where we have more women comedians in the industry than ever, you won’t want to miss Phoebe’s experienced perspective of being a black woman in comedy today.

This book starts out personal and ends personal. You’ll get to know Phoebe better than you would ever have possibly wanted to, but she has the gift of pulling you in and making you feel at home. There is a ton of goofy stuff in here that I think only Phoebe could get away with sharing. As some have said, perhaps her pop culture references are a little too current and will be hard to understand twenty years from now, but they are hilarious AF. They made me laugh out loud and I learned a thing or two I could stand to know, like how awesome Lisa Bonet is even though I never watched The Cosby Show growing up. And yes, you’ll learn all about a black woman’s hair.

Which is so important. Her perspective on race is invaluable, but she literally delivers sucker punch after sucker punch and isn’t afraid to call [specific and general] white people out for their micro-aggressions and general lack of understanding. Some other topics include the ABW (Angry Black Woman) myth, being the black friend, and Hollywood type casting. There’s something for everyone to learn here, even if it’s just to understand that each person’s experience is going to be different. And, if you mess up, the best thing to do is apologize and admit that you were stupid (unlike a few people she talks about in the book who messed up and then put their defenses up). Racism still exists even in the most subtle of ways and Phoebe isn’t afraid to get really upfront and blunt about what has happened to her.

In conclusion, if you haven’t ever heard of Phoebe Robinson (or her 2 Dope Queens cohost Jessica Williams!) you should get on that! I would recommend this wise, relevant, joy of a book for anyone to read.

Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

P.S! I saw Phoebe speak at the Twin Cities Book Festival, and everything is true. She is AMAZING and as awesome in person as in the book–even better! I’ll be posting about that soon (:

 

get these October events on your calendar!

hello-october

Here’s a rundown of things to get on your radar for October.We’re in FULL SWING busy season, so yes, you’re going to have to choose when there’s two events on the same night!

Again, I know I’m not super consistent with posting the same events every time (if they’re monthly or recurring) but just shoot me a line to include what I missed! I’ve tried to be more inclusive by focusing on each bookstore and linking to all their upcoming events after featuring just one on here.

As always, in the “Events” tab above you’ll find the Rain Taxi official literary calendar and other resources to help with finding book readings  and lit events in the Twin Cities area.

  • Rain Taxi’s Twin Cities Book Festival is on Saturday, October 15th!  You don’t want to miss one of the most important TC literary events of the year! 
    • Normally I write this post in chronological order, but this event is just TOO COOL to pass up. It’s 1) at the MN State Fairgrounds and 2) it’s ABSOLUTELY FREE. I hope to see you there!!
    • And there’s an Opening Night Party!

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming 😉

  • Friday, October 7th: Dave Eggers will be chatting with guests and signing books at new Milkweed Books! Don’t miss checking out the new bookstore, if you haven’t already!
    • There’s also an event also on Tuesday, October 4th:Poets in Conversation with Milkweed Editions featuring Michael Bazzett, Patricia Kirkpatrick, Chris Santiago, and Jennifer Willoughby and that will be a conversation about the formation of poets and the supporting ecosystem here in Minnesota, with Milkweed Editions’ publisher, Daniel Slager.
    • Though they’re a powerhouse press, they’re still a baby bookstore, so a lot of events are hosted or run by Milkweed Editions! For a list of all events at Milkweed Books/Editions, check out their Facebook events here, or visit their website!
  • Thursday, October 6th: Poetry Happy Hour hosted by MN Book Awards and Friends of the St. Paul Library featuring Todd Boss, Heid Erdrich, Dobby Gibson, Ed Bok Lee, and Katrina Vandenberg.
  • Also Wednesday, October 12th: Nathan Hill reads from The Nix at Magers & Quinn Booksellers!
    • Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost presents The Secret History of Twin Peaks on Saturday, October 22!
    • There’s more great ones this month including authors Charlie Quimby, Karen Brennan presenting her new book Monsters (get in the Halloween spirit!), James P. Lenfestey, and many others! For a list of all events at Magers & Quinn Booksellers, check out their Facebook events here, or visit their website!
  • Monday, October 17th: Gary Dop and Amy Munson at Common Good Books! In undergrad, Amy Munson was my poetry professor and Gary Dob was my sister’s (though she turned out to be a better poet than me, I don’t think that has anything to do with our professors), so I’m a little biased but I think you should check them out. Amy Munson’s debut poetry volume Yes Thorn is now out from Tupelo Press!

And because this is literally only the first half of the month, but I’m already all our room, see below for other bookstores and their events pages, featuring authors such as Ben Percy, Caroline Burau, Cheri Register, Nick Flynn, and many others!

If you can, I encourage you to check one or two of these great events out and perhaps discover some new awesome reads along the way! Let me know in the comments if there are any others you’re excited about this month!