I decided randomly a couple of months ago that I was only going to read books by or about badass ladies in January 2020 (the only time I could possibly hold to a theme month is the beginning of the year; it gets too messy later on). It feels auspicious to start out the year this way, and this book was a great start to that.
Comedian and podcaster Phoebe Robinson is smart and funny and she has great things to say. This book is an essay collection, not really a true memoir, although she does tell personal stories throughout. It’s more of a comedic treatise on subjects relating to race, gender, and pop culture, sometimes all three at once. I expected to finish it in maybe about a week, but I ended up doing it in less than two days, and that was on audiobook. It is a very engaging read. (Note on the audio: Robinson narrates it herself, and as she admits in the afterward, it starts out a bit shaky, but she’s cruising by the end. I will be doing her second book by audio as well. It’s just really hard to resist her in that format (perhaps why she is also a successful podcaster?)
There wasn’t really an essay in the collection that I disliked, although some of them are weaker than others. I thought she softballed it a bit in the one where she was writing to the future female President, and the acting chapter lacked a little oomph. She’s the most engaging when she’s talking about being black, and in particular being a black woman. The title of the book isn’t just a title; there are two entire chapters in this book devoted to talking about having black hair. She does my favorite thing that media can do, which is to mix intellectual or scholarly thought with vulgarity. One person can do both! In the same sentence even. And even though she’s often talking about heavy topics, the tone of the book that she’s creating remains lighthearted. This gives the constant impression that she’s just a person in the world, dealing with shit. It’s very effective.
The one thing that bothered me slightly (which might not have been as big of a deal if I’d done it in print) was the use of constant internet slang. It’s very weird to have it read aloud, first of all, and second, she often seems to use it as a crutch, when in my opinion most of the instances she uses it she could have just hit the delete button and her point would have been much stronger. It doesn’t help that adding .com or .edu or .gov to some word or other is slang that is already out of normal usage, and that problem will only worsen with time. All in all, though, that was a minor issue.
I can’t wait to see what she does in her next book.