3 Reasons to Read Phoebe Robinson’s ‘You Can’t Touch My Hair’

Read You Can’t Touch my Hair if:

  1. You are feeling stressed, sad, or self-involved because comedian Phoebe Robinson’s writing is snappy, funny, and gets your head off your island of Selfie McSelfface problems, because this woman has perspective. She keeps up an endless stream of pop culture references (many of which will specifically delight the children of the 90’s crew like myself, I mean, all of the Sex in the City, Jurassic Park, Ricky Martin, Now That’s What I Call Music!, and Vitamin C references… )But beware of reading in a public place if you feel weird about LOL-ing in public (actually, you shouldn’t feel weird about that. It just means your life is more interesting than whatever is going on around you) – see her bit on the Devil’s Advocate Guy trap in “How to Avoid being the Black Friend.” Like all good literature should, this book slowed me down to consider issues outside and inside my own experience, shed light, and offered me more insight and empathy than I would have otherwise had. It will make you a better person.
  1. You are a white person, like me, and notice a normal weekend for you may involve re-watching re- Gilmore Girls, listening to Elizabeth Gilbert podcasts, reading John Irving backlist, and hopping from one hipster brewery that features $11 imperial whiskey nitro cream cask stouts in 5 oz. pours to another. These are all activities I shamelessly endorse and enjoy, however, if you can relate to the guest letter John Hodgeman writes in Robinson’s “Letters to Olivia” chapter, about not realizing how white it is to spend an entire day in a gourmet mayonnaise shop, you, like me, have a disproportionately all-white cast of voices in your life and may be in danger of ignorance as a result. Phoebe is here to tell Black People Secrets (first chapter!), remind you that macro and micro aggressions are, yes, real and, yes, happening all the time (see her unpack the history of the word in the “Uppity” chapter), the ludicrous plot hole of The Legend of Bagger Vance in “How to Avoid being a Black Friend,” and let you in on stories of crazy nonsense she has waded through to get to the point where, “There’s no Greek chorus in my head going, what will the white people think? anymore” in “The Angry Black Woman Myth.”  
  1. You are a woman. Phoebe writes without apology about getting the world comfortable with the word vagina and using vagina powers for good, surrounding yourself with brilliant women, and normalizing the idea that women should be taken as seriously as men without having to wear pantsuits unless we want to. She shouts out the work of other amazing female artists (reading her extol the virtues of Viola Davis’s performance in How to Get Away with Murder sent me scouring the internet for where to find binge-able episodes) and calls out absurdities like how the NFL treats women, women using sexy baby talk, and catcallers. She’s modeling lessons in confidence, banding together, and honesty, here.

Disclaimer: please read this book if you are never stressed, sad, or self-involved, not white, and not a woman. The above are simply the reasons I can best speak to from personal experience.

Bonus: Phoebe Robinson has a podcast called 2 Dope Queens with fellow comedian Jessica Williams! So even when you finish the book, you can still keep Phoebe’s comedy and clarity in your life, as I do, while driving or doing dishes.

-Abbey Paxton

Copies available at BookBar