You Can’t Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson wasn’t the book for me. I picked it up from the library on a whim, based on enthusiasm from Litsy users. Although I appreciated the look into a young African-American woman’s life, her writing style left me cold. I guess I’m too old for hashtags, blog-speak, and other such things in books.
It’s odd that Robinson’s use of her own vernacular or dialect didn’t affect me the same way as Zora Neale Hurston’s. It rang less true somehow, despite its nonfiction usage. Seriously, the word is truth not troof. I think what frustrated me was Robinson’s point that she’s a well-educated woman, which she chose to juxtapose against all the slang talk. The difference between her stage persona sections and her narrator writing style was jarring for me.
On the other hand, Robinson writes with strength about positive female body image, which I endorse heartily. Her essay “Dear Future Female President” was especially poignant (and still funny) given the outcome of the 2016 election.
Her essay about Black hair in the media reminded me that I still haven’t watched Chris Rock’s documentary about the same topic. Robinson did make me chuckle with her not-so-guilty pleasures, and I felt her frustration over the angry Black woman conundrum.
Robinson ends You Can’t Touch My Hair with a few letters to her niece about the realities of an African-American woman’s life. As often happens to me, in a case of bookish synchronicity I couldn’t help but compare them to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. Robinson doesn’t come out on top.
Despite the essays I liked, not every essay hit home with me and I skimmed the end of the book in frustration. Ultimately, I think it’s probably a case of “it’s me, not you.”