Wednesday, January 18, 2017

*Review* You Can't Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson

Genre: Nonfiction
Published: October 4, 2016
Pages: 320


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."


I listened to the audiobook version of this book. Now when I listen to an audiobook by a celebrity, it's very important to me that the celebrity do the narrating (and so far in my experience, they usually do). Phoebe did her own narrating, and it's possible she ad-libbed at times (it seemed like she was ad-libbing at times). In any case, I think it's definitely worth springing for the audiobook regardless of whether there was ad-libbing or not. If nothing else, you're guaranteed to get the info in the tone it was intended since you're hearing it straight from the author herself. 

I am a liberal and a feminist, so I was already receptive to the information Ms. Robinson was providing. In spite of that, I caught myself #AllLivesMatter-ing her. She was talking about the pressure black women face to meet specific, basically impossible, beauty standards and I thought "Uh, that's all women." I know better than to do that. I was listening to this book specifically to get more insight into the issues Phoebs was talking about, and I still #AllLivesMatter'd her. I shamed myself then paid attention. Clearly I still needed this book based on that though. And Phoebe clearly knows what she's talking about. That was made clear when she proclaimed that oatmeal raisin cookies are not real cookies. Pretty much everyone knows that to be a fact after all. 

I expected this book to make me laugh more than it did. Don't get me wrong, it was funny, I just spent more time angry than laughing. And I remember the anger more than the laughter, although that means the information made a bigger impact than the jokes, and that's not exactly a bad thing. I would definitely recommend this book to people who are interested in getting more insight into the issues affecting women and minorities. 5 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Buy the Book

About the Author

PHOEBE ROBINSON is a stand-up comedian, writer, and actress whom, Essence, and Esquire have named one of the top comedians to watch. She has appeared on NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers and Last Call with Carson Daly; Comedy Central’s Broad CityThe Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, and @midnight with Chris Hardwick; as well as the new Jill Soloway pilot for Amazon I Love Dick. Robinson’s writing has been featured in The Village Voice and on,,,, and She was also a staff writer on MTV’s hit talking head show, Girl Code, as well as a consultant on season three of Broad City. Most recently, she created and starred in Refinery29’s web series Woke Bae and, alongside Jessica Williams of The Daily Show, she is the creator and costar of the hit WNYC podcast 2 Dope Queens as well as the host of the new WNYC podcast Sooo Many White Guys. Robinson lives and performs stand-up in Brooklyn, NY, and you can read her weekly musings about race, gender, and pop culture on her blog, (aka Black Daria).

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