Review: 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 (: