This happened on a small scale. I'm like an 88-year-old when it comes to pop culture. And so you always want to be in space where — at least I was for a while — where I was like: I want to be likable. I was able to identify with some of her experiences and, as a black woman, I listened to the audiobook version of this book, and I think it was the right call. I sighed, shrugged, and requested an ebook version—and the entire time I was reading, I was imagining how much better the book would be if I could hear it in Phoebe's voice. I appreciated that she has a huge chunk of nerd in her, I felt like I could connect with her if we had to have a conversation because we got stuck in an elevator together.
I'm going with 3 stars on this, the audiobook, specifically. Hair was an entry point into a larger conversation. Some of the issues she covers are America's uncomfortable relationship with black hair, the evolution of her attitude towards her own hair, being the black friend, Hollywood casting, microaggressions, coded language, and the angry black woman myth. There's this whole notion of 'black women are angry' or 'black women are sassy' or, like, 'have bad attitudes,' she says. We had a moment four hours out of four hundred years where we put aside the weight of this five-word question, a moment when both parties involved lowered their defenses, exchanged perspectives and learned from each other. Sometimes, the best bet is even to ask a good friend of hers if she likes you first. I really enjoyed this, and will be looking out for whatever Phoebe does next.
The most compelling essay outside of the hair is about Robinson's experience on television or attempting to audtion for roles. If you're flirting with each other, then it's natural for you to touch each other, as long as you're both doing the touching. Maybe I'm not the right audience for a book that uses hashtags and laughs at its own jokes with an L to the O to the L, but I just couldn't get jiggy with Robinson's sense of humor. It was almost as if this were geared toward a young- or new-adult audience. On whether a female president would change the way women are viewed I think that will go a long way in changing the way that people view women because you have people saying: Well, Hillary doesn't look presidential, which just means she has a vagina. It doesn't necessarily mean she's not interested. Give her a light and casual touch.
A girl might be all about cuddling with you and think she's just being friendly, while you feel like you're getting mixed signals. It was a way of telling those who have stolen a touch or asked for one how it makes me and others like me feel -- like an object put on display. This person is simply a shit-starter. Robinson explains that casting calls ask for those typecast black characters so it's been hard to break this cycle. I had all of a sudden become the object of everyone's attention when all I had wanted to do was order a Chardonnay.
I like conversations because they allow for human connection, like the one. The essays are uneven in quality that vacillate between utterly personal, emotional, intelligent and brilliant to sophmoric, juvenille and silly. I've seen the gamut of emotion on people's faces — awe, confusion, stress, anger, joy, amazement, suspicion, envy, attraction, you name it — because we, and I'm using the royal we, as in society, have never figured out how to have a healthy, functional relationship with black hair. Phoebe Robinson's memoir is not like that at all. If you're both in a fun-loving and flirtatious mood, then it's okay to touch her this way.
Allyn suggested I listen to it on audio and I have to be honest, it's the best way to stay interested in it. She has a great narrative style -- she's funny but direct and unapologetic. Not as recommended for hateful crones like myself. I feel grateful that she has so much out there that I can still explore. If the material is sometimes juvenile, well, juvenile can be funny. It has this ability to change shape and texture.
Often with this kind of book that's kind of a mix between essay and memoir there will be the occasional weak section or the short, fluffy chapters thrown in so it doesn't look to short. Robinson is a brilliant critic and observer, but the writing style took away from that. She tells the reader, up front, that there are going to be zillions of pop culture references all throughout her essays and she is not wrong. It is fascinating to watch Robinson deconstruct an old movie like a college professor does a piece of literature, but then our mind starts thinking…what else can this woman do that would be—less fun, maybe—but more important? Make sure she's the kind of girl who is okay with all this gentlemanly stuff and doesn't find you too old-fashioned, though. People walking too closely behind you. Michael Fassbender is not the only Michael I'm after. If you see one, tell her, Hold still.
I know I'm doing that and I know it's stupid and I also know that my irritation at that speaking style kept me from appreciating the actual content of the book as much as I should have. But it has to come from a place that's respecting the past and respecting the people in it. It took me by surprise in the way white people are constantly being taken by surprise. Be that beacon of light that we can look toward. I'm 170, my thighs rub together, and that's totally fine.
If the casual approach worked, then try touching her for a little bit longer next time. Robinson makes some amazing points about racism, sexism, feminism, and the patriarchy. I couldn't stop thinking of as I read this book, which wasn't a bad thing. So while I normally sigh heavily over pop culture references, these ones worked and made sense and I was not left on the outskirts of the essays because I didn't get what she was talking about. If they point towards you, she's interested in the conversation, at least.
You know how sometimes you're reading the new Mindy Kaling book and she'll start talking about the realities of being a woman of color in entertainment and you think she's just about to start going for it and then she starts talking about zits or B. She brings up some more great points, too, but after the previous section, it feels a bit anticlimactic. Look for opportunities to break the touch barrier in a chivalrous way when you are together. I really appreciate her insight, incredibly valid points, and smart sense of humor. Robinson also has a talk-show style podcast she started last year called. Everything else is a miss for me.