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Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning and Sexual Power of Red Hair Hardcover – June 16, 2005

43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“One of the most extensive serious inquiries to date on what it means to be a redhead.”Chicago Tribune
“Richly salted with fascinating cultural lore, and an engaging read whether you’re a carrot-top or not.”Houston Chronicle
A strong recommendation for redheads.”—Library Journal

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (July 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582343446
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582343440
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #204,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Marion Roach Smith, co-founder of thesisterproject.com, has taught a sold-out class called "Writing What You Know," since 1998. Under the name Marion Roach, she is the author of "The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning and Sexual power of Red Hair" (Bloomsbury,2005); co-author with famed forensic pathologist Michael Baden, M.D., of "Dead Reckoning" (Simon and Schuster, 2001); and author of "Another Name for Madness" (Houghton Mifflin, Pocket Books, 1986). She is a former staff member of The New York Times and has written for The New York Times Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, Prevention, New York Daily News, Vogue, Newsday, Good Housekeeping, Discover, and The Los Angeles Times, among others. Marion has been a commentator on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and writes and records a daily radio spot for Martha Stewart Living Radio, Sirius 112/XM 157.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By K. Fournier on March 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Marion Roach, NPR correspondent, is a redhead, and aims to get to the bottom of redhead mythology in our culture. She discusses the oldest famous redheads, like Lilith (Adam's pre-Eve wife in the bible), Set, and Mary Magdalene. She also gets into the genetics of red hair, and explains why it's rare. She also discusses the historical attributes associated with red hair through time. It was formerly thought that Jews were redheads, and later, that redheads were not to be trusted. More currently, red hair is associated with sexual prowess and a hot temper. This book is a fun and intellectually satisfying read, especially for redheads.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Zbeth on October 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I'm a brunette, but I bought this book for the redheads on my gift list and ended up reading it, myself. It's a lovely mix of poetic personal tales and the science of genetics written in a way that's easy to understand.

By the way, my three redhead friends just loved it and ended up buying it for their redheaded relatives.

Sure it's got sex in it - read the title. If that is going to offend you, don't read it.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Astute Reader on June 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
As a redhead, I was excited to read this book about the myth and lore of redheads...not to read about the author's own "flowing like water red hair and her flickering hazel eyes." The author's overuse of unnecessary metaphors and meaningless personal anecdotes made this book incomprehensible to even the most astute reader. By page 3 of this book, an intended recreational read had quickly turned into an agonizingly painful endeavor.

Don't bother reading this book, if you are interested in the myth and lore of redheads, Google "red head" and watch "I Love Lucy" reruns.
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30 of 38 people found the following review helpful By de Ville on July 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Reading this book made me see red! Not out of anger but desire, specifically the desire to take the book to my hairdresser, point to the gorgeous cover of red curls and say, "The redder the better for me, thanks!" Love the section headings - sinners, science and sex. Love the clever subheadings - my favorite is the one for Chapter Four under Science: "A Monk, Two Very Different Victorians, and the Knockout Mouse or How We Were Delivered the Genetics of Hair Color." And in that subheading lies the beating red heart of what I really love about the book - the author's love of language. The fun she has with it, how she magnifies its allure, celebrates its danger, revels in its power as a tool of discovery. Yes, this book is a mad dash through a forest of redheaded demons, devils, dangers and desires. A wild romp that took the author - with the reader now along - from continent to continent and through a head-spinning number of fields. A crazy, creative and comprehensive look at all the redheaded threads woven through history. But even more, it's a joyride with one hot mama who loves to write.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jude Eden on August 8, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If I had it to do again, I wouldn't waste my money or my time on this book. I wish I'd read the negative reviews because they're all correct: Roach is all over the place in this sketchy tome riddled with unnecessarily complicated run-on sentences and inflated narcissism. She goes to witch camp to find out about redheads, but never completes the inquiry. She goes on and on about her visit to Darwin's house, which gives no insight except the one that she misses: Red hair is hardly a characteristic of the fittest because it's most often accompanied by fair skin prone to sunburn, making redheads more vulnerable in many parts of the globe. It's lost on her that, following Darwin's theory, it should have died out long ago, overtaken by "fitter" characteristics let alone eliminated because it was seen as a sign of sin during certain periods. Red-heads, as she points out, are most prevalent where the sun is weakest, in often-grey places like England, Ireland and Scotland. Her lengthy attempts at explaining the genetics of red hair are redundant and vacuous, leaving the reader with nothing. Her again-lengthy explanations about why some of history's most infamous characters like Lilith and Eve are portrayed in the arts as red-heads completely neglect what is most obvious: Their hair color is anyone's guess and they are portrayed long after their existence by artists using red for its visceral affect on the viewer. A more "extensive serious inquiry" as the Chicago Tribune review on the back cover says, might have delved into the psychology of color - why red is perceived as a power color, while blue is perceived as soothing, yellow uplifting; then to abstract that into why red-heads are met with such strong reaction, be it love, lust, fear, or hate.Read more ›
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Liza Harold on June 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book from my library because the cover looked interesting and the blurb looked interesting. The book consists more musings and less research and organization. The author begins to tell a story or talk about a myth or idea, and then jumps from topic to topic, and we never see the end of her train of thought.

I stopped reading around Chapter 3, when the book turned to the "taboo" of being a redhead in the Elizabethan era without any mention of Queen Elizabeth being a redhead - not to mention that red hair during this time was actually quite fashionable.
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