You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain

by Phoebe Robinson

Paperback, 2016




Plume (2016), Edition: Illustrated, 320 pages


Essays. Sociology. Nonfiction. Humor (Nonfiction.) HTML:A NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • “A must-read...Phoebe Robinson discusses race and feminism in such a funny, real, and specific way, it penetrates your brain and stays with you.”—Ilana Glazer, co-creator and co-star of Broad City A hilarious and timely essay collection about race, gender, and pop culture from comedy superstar and 2 Dope Queens podcaster Phoebe Robinson Being a black woman in America means contending with old prejudices and fresh absurdities every day. Comedian Phoebe 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. One of Glamour's “Top 10 Books of 2016”.… (more)

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½ (173 ratings; 3.8)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Jan.Coco.Day
“Explaining your life to a world that doesn’t care to listen is often more draining than living in it,” is the central thesis of Phoebe Robinson’s first book. I have so many complicated feelings about this book. On the one hand, I hate that another black person has to explain black
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experience to white people. Of course we need to welcome to all experiences. But at the same time, I want Robinson to spend her time living her fullest life--being funny and getting the opportunity to showcase her hard-earned talent, instead of lecturing to white people about the history of black hair or critiquing casting calls for women and POC or writing an open letter directly to the next female President. But as I sank further into the book, I could tell that living her fullest life is exactly what Robinson is doing. She fills this pseudo memoir with her individual flavor of humor--both the racial commentary and her personal stories offer an intimate insight into Robinson’s mind: a place you’re going to want to grab a white wine or a nice rosé and tuck in, because this is your new home, girl.
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LibraryThing member Calavari
You Can't Touch My Hair and Other Things I Still Have to Explain I might have fallen in love with Robinson a little bit while listening to her read this amazing audiobook. I'm sure reading it for myself would have been fun but the audio was SO GOOD. It's definitely the way to go.
I also recommend
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reading Between the World and Me first, if you plan on reading both and haven't read that one already. Not only does she reference it at least once, but the information is complimentary without being identical and Coates's work was much more serious and gave a lot of history to both his topics and hers. That said, if you were not already going to read Between the World and Me, it is not essential to understanding this book whatsoever. Reading it first is just a recommendation from me. I read them in that order and feel like reading the funny first would have led me to not enjoy the serious as much.
I had decided that I absolutely had to read this one from the second I read the title. I have had issues with people touching my hair, though for different reasons. I get the irritation that comes with having to explain to people not to touch you. Since she is a comic by trade, I'm sure you expect this work to be funny, so I won't go on and on about how hilariously the book handled each topic. I will say that it did very much remind me of the way it has been pointed out in All the Rebel Women that it is a big part of this fourth wave of feminism that women are increasingly using humor to make our points and that the stand-up comic arena has become a feminist platform that is making headway.
I would normally tell you which essay was my favorite, but it's hard to choose. There's a moment or two in each that really makes it hard to pick a favorite. I think the one that I really need to remember the most, though, is the Angry Black Woman. I've never accused a black woman of being angry, but Robinson's issue makes perfect sense. Personally, it sounds like the dumbest thing to do because I feel like it makes a not angry person upset to call them angry but I get that it's a tactic to try to shut black women down and done for exactly this reason. I've had similar issues with other words associated with bitchy. My internal response is either "Oh, you want a bitch, you'll get one" or "WTF, that wasn't bitchy at all" and then feeling bad that something could have been offensive. I'm working on it, though, because that's a ridiculous response to someone who is also just trying to shut me down, but I didn't know that for a long time.
I'm also pretty familiar with the black friend dynamic. I've had done that to people (not proud to say I've done that to friends but it's true) and I've had people try to make me the Hispanic/Latin friend. The joke was always on them, though, because all the things people want a Latin friend for I can't do or am horrible at, like cooking Latin foods, dancing, speaking Spanish. It's become it's own source of entertainment for me. The essay on the usage of uppity was also different while being familiar. I've heard people say it before, but I'd never put it together that way and it makes so much more sense and feels like it should be obvious. As a girl who is also mixed, I particularly appreciated her letter to Olivia about being mixed and appreciating both heritages and both cultures. That was not something that I was taught growing up and I had to gradually come to appreciate my Hispanic side. It wasn't anyone's fault, just the way the insecurities of multiple people around me played out.
It's a little cute when she calls herself old because I've felt that way at work too. I'm a smidge older than her, but it's been happening since around her age at the time of her writing. Being that we are fairly contemporary, I got almost all the pop culture references. I had really started to think that I was the last person on the planet that remembered the show the West Wing, so her references to that show and C.J. Craig were especially fun for me.
I had a little bit of a book hangover when I was done and YouTubed some of her shorter video's for a while as I was trying to concentrate on writing this review. I look forward to watching/reading whatever else she does in the future and checking out her podcast 2 Dope Queens soon.
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LibraryThing member froxgirl
Firstly, this is HILARIOUS! Phoebe is so alert to all cultural happenings that reading this will either crack you up or send you running to Google up everyone she mentions. Secondly, this is deadly serious. The author recounts many of her most trying moments in her career and her personal life, and
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how she has had to push the misery and pain of racism aside to feel powerful in her own skin (and hair!). There's a lot of wisdom here for Black women and a lot to learn for white people - like how to BEHAVE CIVILLY and to SHUT THE HELL UP BEFORE YOU SAY SOMETHING YOU'LL NEVER BE FORGIVEN FOR! I will be keeping many quotes for future reference. This is a fantastic gift book.
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LibraryThing member Carlie
Actress and comedian Phoebe Robinson uses this book to explain what it is like to be a black woman in America. Much of it is with a comedic tenor, but she does get serious in some places. I mainly appreciated the anecdotal stories of her experiences with others. She has a very conversational tone
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that works well in audio but is a little more difficult to read. All in all, it was enjoyable, and I learned more about the human experience.
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LibraryThing member shaunesay
I read this to be ready for a book club, I had no idea before now who Phoebe was, but I'm now interested in listening to her podcast, Two Dope Queens. I enjoyed her personality in the performance of her writing, and there is much food for thought in what she has to say. I'm having a hard time
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articulating what I want to say here, so I'll dive right in and hope it comes out okay! I feel that the basic point is that there is a difference between acceptance and embrace of POC, and trying to show how awesomely awake we are as white people by showing off our POC friend status or what we know and like that is considered POC culture. The first is what we should do, the second is a selfish act to make ourselves feel good, and has nothing to do with true acceptance. It is still placing POC's as the other, rather than as an equal part of our shared world.

I did enjoy the hair discussion a lot, and Phoebe explains about dreads, and why they are considered spiritual.

Overall, this will make me examine more closely my own behavior, question my motives, am I doing/saying things for the right reason, or just to make myself feel better about myself? I highly recommend this to everyone!
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LibraryThing member mariacfox
Really loved parts of this; felt like others were less entertaining or dragged on a bit, but I really enjoy her voice and thought the discussion was refreshing.
LibraryThing member Kristymk18
I wasn't a fan of the writing style (all of the hashtags, .coms, etc annoyed me), but I think the message and the stories in here are important and necessary. Robinson's stories acknowledge and discuss the difficulties of being a POC in America while being interspersed with humor.
LibraryThing member BraveNewBks
Really enjoyed this, and would recommend it even if I hadn't. It's important to read the thoughts and experiences of people who inhabit the same physical spaces as you, but from a different perspective. I try to seek out books by women, POC, and works in translation so that I don't lose sight of
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minority/contrasting viewpoints. With this book, I felt like I had hung out with Phoebe for a few hours, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

However, it should be noted that I think some of her jokes already feel a bit passé, so read this sooner rather than later!
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LibraryThing member Pepperwings
There were some great bits in this novel, but unfortunately most of it read like a very rambling blog post, rather than being cohesive and concise.

I haven't encountered a lot of Ms. Robinson's other work, but I suspect her stand-up works a lot better.
LibraryThing member readingbeader
Funny, interesting insights.
LibraryThing member ToniFGMAMTC
This is about black issues and women's issues, but it's totally upbeat. She isn't negative about anything. She gives lots of pointers to all people of how to do your best in situations. She also has a section to her niece who is biracial and encourages her to embrace her black side and white side
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and other biracial people. It's positive and worth reading.
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LibraryThing member bell7
Stand-up comedian Phoebe Robinson addresses life as a Black woman in a series of essays ranging in topic from Black hair to the "angry black woman" stereotype to being called "uppity" and much more.

Robinson's demeanor and humor will either charm you or completely put you off, but one thing's for
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sure, she's completely herself. The audio was great fun to experience: as is often the case in books written by comics, it's an added bonus to hear the delivery of lines. But I can also recommend the e-book/paper version for the photos included (especially when she discusses Black hair, because I didn't always know what a particular hairstyle looked like). The humor mostly worked for me, though she mentions sex, sexual attractive, and her "vajeen" a lot, which I could've personally done without. And she has a lot of pretty serious things to say about race and racism as well as sexism in the U.S. A good readalike for You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey.
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Audie Award (Finalist — Humor — 2017)
Brooklyn Public Library Book Prize (Longlist — Nonfiction — 2017)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

7.96 inches


0143129201 / 9780143129202
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