Book Review - You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson
This review was originally published on Tumblr on January 7, 2017 as part of an old project of mine, the Diverse/Lady Book Project. In migrating to Substack, I’ve decided to reproduce this post here, for consistency. And because I lost a bunch of old book reviews when other bloggers deleted them from their websites. Please enjoy 2017 Amanda’s review of You Can’t Touch My Hair.
You Can’t Touch My Hair is one of those books that I wish had existed when I was younger and still trying to figure everything out. Phoebe Robinson, through her comedic essays, tells the world about the experiences of a black woman, a perspective I can’t personally relate to but was able to understand much better after reading this book. It was… fascinating, but in that way that’s sort of like a car accident. (Not the writing—Robinson is a great writer, the comedy and pop culture references were perfect, and I enjoyed that aspect immensely.) The car wreck part of it comes from the fact that people still have to live with the injustices that Robinson writes about—being followed around in stores, having to be consciously aware of what you say so you don’t come off as angry, etc. It’s terrible, and it’s a set of essays that needed to be written and published under the guise of comedy.
3 Things I Loved
1. Robinson’s voice. Phoebe Robinson is not new to comedy and pop culture, and it shows. Her comedic timing is effortless, her pop culture references are flawless, and her writing is enthralling. I never felt like anything was forced, which is rare for me when reading books of essays and memoirs.
2. Robinson’s activism. You Can’t Touch My Hair brought a new perspective to me. Sure, this was a funny book of essays, likely found in the humor section in your local bookstore. But it was so much more than that. She brought the fire in this one, and I was there for it. There were times when I could see myself in the white privilege that she described, and it really made me take a step back to reexamine things in my own life. I needed that. Everyone needs that.
3. Robinson’s insight into the world of comedy. I listen to a lot of podcasts, so I’ve heard a lot about the world of stand-up comedy and how women (don’t) fit. This has been especially clear in episodes of Guys We F**ked (which I’ve been listening to the longest, of the female comic podcasts in my queue). But again, Robinson has a unique take, because she is not just a woman - she’s a woman of color. Her experience is different. She has to worry about things like her hair. HER HAIR. I hate even writing that.
Not as far as I could tell, but I’m only a single set of opinions.
A reminder of the rating scale:
Red = DNF, I hated everything
Orange = Ugh, no thank you
Yellow = I mean, I’ve read worse, but there were problems
Green = This was good, but not something I’d reread
Blue = Oh my gosh, everyone should be reading this book
Purple = This is the unicorn of books and I will be rereading it until the binding falls apart
This was executed perfectly. You Can’t Touch My Hair is definitely BLUE. It is available where books are sold.