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April 16, 2024

You Can’t Touch My Hair intersects race, feminism

By KATHERINE LOGAN | October 13, 2016

If you’re anything like me, the daily coverage of this presidential election has you feeling completely exhausted. Being subjected to rhetoric entrenched in bigotry, racism, homophobia and a disregard for women’s rights and values can feel flat-out depressing, and it’s easy to fall into a pit of helplessness and despair.

Well, my friend, I have a not-so-guilty vice to share that I think might be the perfect fix for your blues: badass comedian Phoebe Robinson’s new collection of essays, You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain.

Perhaps Robinson’s name sounds eerily familiar but you can’t quite place how you know her. Maybe it’s from her hilarious podcast 2 Dope Queens with one of the best correspondents from The Daily Show (also her BFF or “work wife”), Jessica Williams.

One part banter about their personal lives and pop culture/current events and other part stand-up featuring some of the best up-and-coming comedians in the biz, 2 Dope Queens is guaranteed to make you laugh until you cry.

Separately, Robinson has her own podcast entitled Sooo Many White Guys, which features fabulous interviews with different creatives and comedians who are not your stereotypical white guys. Featured guests have included Gina Rodriguez, Hasan Minhaj, Roxane Gay, Ilana Glazer of Broad City (who also serves as an executive producer) and, of course, the token white guy of the season, Mike Birbiglia.

Robinson also featured on The Late Show with Seth Meyers, Comedy Central’s @midnight and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. Last but not least, if you’re a fan of FOX’s Empire (who isn’t? — I mean, Taraji P. Henson as Cookie is A+) then you may have read Robinson’s post-show musings in her weekly recaps for Vulture.

What makes Robinson’s collection of essays so special is that she is able to tackle the serious topics of race and feminism without sacrificing her sense of humor. Where others might brush off the role pop culture plays in social movements as well as in expressing and reinforcing societal norms, Robinson isn’t afraid to incorporate a relevant reference here or there to add to both the humor and the poignancy of her observations.

As Jill Soloway, the creator of the hit Amazon show Transparent, puts it, “You Can’t Touch My Hair is the book we need right now. Robinson makes us think about race and feminism in new ways, thanks to her whip-smart comedy and expert use of a pop culture reference. The future is very bright because Robinson and her book are in it.”

Honestly, the tone of this book made sitting down to read it feel like having a conversation with my best friend over coffee, which was comforting in the midst of the craziness of midterms.

I know you’re busy because you’re at Hopkins, but seriously, make the time to read it. I promise you won’t regret it, and with that said, I’ve got a few tips to help you make the time to read it.

1. Speaking from experience, this book is best read with the hot beverage of your choice in hand and a sweater wrapped around you. It’s fall, embrace the coziness.

2. In my opinion, the best reading locations are the Beach, the Gilman lounge area outside the atrium or Carma’s Café. Or your bed, you know, if it’s one of those days when venturing outdoors seems like too much work. It’s often one of those days.

3. Make your friends read it along with you, that way you have people to discuss with.

When all is said and done, You Can’t Touch My Hair manages to mix Robinson’s trademark brand of humor with issues that just about anyone could find relevant today as well as issues that are uniquely her.

Robinson will be in Washington, D.C. for her book tour on Oct. 22 at Howard University and Oct. 24 at Politics & Prose at Busboys and Poets. Both events are free and relatively close by, so you should definitely take the time to check them out if possible.

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