Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning, and Sexual Power of Red Hair

Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning, and Sexual Power of Red Hair

by Marion Roach
     
 

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Part history, part cultural commentary, part memoir, The Roots of Desire is a witty and entertaining investigation into what it means to be a redhead.

A redhead rarely goes unnoticed in a crowded room. From Judas Iscariot to Botticelli's Venus to Julianne Moore, redheads have been worshipped, idealized, fetishized, feared, and condemned, leaving their mark

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Overview

Part history, part cultural commentary, part memoir, The Roots of Desire is a witty and entertaining investigation into what it means to be a redhead.

A redhead rarely goes unnoticed in a crowded room. From Judas Iscariot to Botticelli's Venus to Julianne Moore, redheads have been worshipped, idealized, fetishized, feared, and condemned, leaving their mark on us and our culture. Such is the power of what is actually a genetic mutation, and in The Roots of Desire, Marion Roach takes a fascinating look at the science behind hair color and the roles redheads have played over time. She discovers that in Greek mythology, redheads become vampires after they die; Hitler banned intermarriage with redheads for fear of producing "deviant offspring"; women with red hair were burned as witches during the Inquisition; in Hollywood, female redheads are considered sexy while male redheads are considered a hard sell; and in the nineteenth century, it was popular belief that redheads were the strongest scented of all women, smelling of amber and violets. Redheads have been stereotyped, marginalized, sought after, and made to function as everything from a political statement to a symbol of human carnality. A redhead herself, Roach brings candor and brilliant insight to the complicated and revealing history of redheads, making this a stand-out narrative and an essential tool in understanding the mechanics and phenomenon of red hair.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A redhead herself, NPR commentator Roach has an odd chip on her shoulder about it, relating all sorts of travails and opinions connected to red hair that the average non-redhead may never have guessed existed. To get to the bottom of our perceptions and experience of red hair, she explores the ancient legends of Lilith and Set, the traditions that depict both Judas and Mary Magdalene as redheads, and an Eve in London's St. Paul's Cathedral that has blond hair before the Fall and red hair after it. She visits "witch camp" in Vermont, a high-end hair salon in Manhattan, and Emily Dickinson's house, where a carefully preserved lock of the poet's red hair transforms Roach's image of her. Along the way, Roach (Another Name for Madness) makes some poignant points about what it means to belong to the redheaded minority in Western society, making gently suggestive comparisons to more overt patterns of prejudice. Yet the author seems to accept preconceptions about the sexuality and vivacity associated with red hair, and her jumping between examples often reads more like breathless conjecture than fact and leaches energy from extended vignettes, such as her visit with the witches. Whether readers enjoy this book will have a lot to do with whether they like the narrator's self-conscious red-headed persona. And, of course, whether they are as fascinated as she is by red hair. Agent, Kris Dahl. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
NPR commentator Roach (Dead Reckoning: The New Science of Catching Killers) sets out to affirm the uniqueness of a small elite: redheads. She visits a witch camp, a genetics laboratory, the Victorian graveyard of her ancestors, and Amherst, MA, where she sees the only existing lock of Emily Dickinson's hair. By book's end, she has left blondes and brunettes sputtering in the dust of the world's most powerful, sexy, and satanic women-natural redheads like Roach herself. Along the way, she pulls together history, myth, symbolism, etymology, personal memoir, science writing, and some piquant facts to explore and, some may argue, bolster the significance of red hair. The section "Sinners" associates red hair with Satan (a.k.a. Set) through such figures as Judas, Henry VIII, Boudicca, and Shakespeare's Shylock. (This is the only section that really encompasses male redheads.) In "Science," Roach travels to Edinburgh, redhead capital of the world, to have her own genetic test done. She discovers that she indeed carries the genetic sequencing that creates a typical redhead. The final section, "Sex," looks into the Garden of Eden as depicted in mosaics in London's St. Paul's Cathedral and chronicles Eve's transformation from blond (pre- Original Sin) to redhead (post-Original Sin). Redhead stereotypes of women-powerful, sin-stained, pleasure-seeking, prone to "bad girl" behavior-abound in this section. Lest other hair colors feel left out, there is always Clairol: according to Roach, red is the number-one choice for hair color. A strong recommendation for redheads; a toned-down recommendation for academic and general collections.-Janet Sassi, New York Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781582343440
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
07/07/2005
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.28(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.08(d)

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