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What Are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman's Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal Paperback – January 8, 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"In her debut book, music journalist and hardcore metal devotee Laina Dawes uncovers black women’s voices and stories of participation in punk and metal."—Vice


"How exciting is this? The book tackles the good, the bad and the ugly sides of being a black woman in the metal and punk scenes."—Afropunk.com


"A fantastic book"—AOL Noisecreep


"Thoughtful and inspiring"—Publishers Weekly


"As journalist Laina Dawes has investigated in her 2012 book What Are You Doing Here?, women of colour have been especially marginalised by heavy metal's hyper-masculine, white-dude culture."—The Guardian


"Dawes uses her sociological smarts to remind us that metal isn't just disenfranchised white dudes' music... it's a way for all of us on the outside to feel the power."—Revolver [4/5 stars]


"Excellent"—About.com


"Essential reading for those who have never felt the blow of intolerance, and for those who have felt it far too often...its themes are universal"—PopMatters


"As the title suggests, Dawes has a compellingly idiosyncratic tale to tell about cultural identity and personal passion…[her] understandable difficulty is precisely what makes her struggle interesting."—The Atlantic


"Dawes has done the metal scene a great service...an important addition to every metal fan’s bookshelf"—MSN.com


"Laina Dawes’ What Are You Doing Here? is a strikingly more powerful, penetrating, and passionate look at metal than the one written by the guy [Tony Iommi] who arguably invented the genre...brave, engaging, and unique"—The Onion A/V Club


"While the book is extensively researched and brings in a broad array of opinions from musicians, fans and academics, the most resonant moments can be found within Dawes' own history."—Spinner


"Insightful and provocative."—NOW Toronto


"The book is half love letter to both black women who have paved the way and continue to pave the way, as well as the music that brought them there, and half unflinching real talk of the all unfortunate actualities of the casual to the not-so-casual racism that is embedded with the scene."—Persephone Magazine


"This book needs to be mandatory reading for every new metal head."—Metal Army America


"A wonderfully intimate memoir...critical insight abounds"—Philadelphia City Paper


“The women presented in What Are You Doing Here? are courageous, honest and without pretense—just like the best metal that ultimately unites them.”—Albert Mudrian, editor-in-chief, Decibel


"An intriguing reminder of how much we all want, need and deserve to belong to something that stimulates and validates us."—Terrorizer


"Dawes tells an important story well and gives voice to the many black girls and women who are brave enough to let themselves be different."—LEO Weekly


"She presents metal as a source of joy, an outlet for negative emotions, a physical release and catharsis. It is also an opportunity to embrace something that Dawes, and the women she interviews, love intensely, and therefore is also the narrative of the triumph of truth and happiness over the pressure of public perception."—Toronto Standard


"Dawes brings a lot of experience, clear and concise writing and good journalism, and while she doesn’t have any long-term solutions for bridging these deep and unfortunate valleys—through no fault of her own—she has still introduced the first step, which is opening our eyes and starting a dialogue."—SLUG


"Jimi Hendrix is a god of rock guitarists, Living Color’s Vernon Reid is considered the elder statesman of guitarship, and Laina Dawes is the cool-ass aunt of heavy metal."—Racialicious

About the Author

Laina Dawes is a music and cultural critic and opinion writer from Toronto, Canada. She is an active public speaker and contributor to CBC Radio, current affairs columnist for Afrotoronto.com, and contributing Editor (for race, ethnicity and culture) for Blogher.org.

Skin formed Skunk Anansie in 1994, releasing the albums Paranoid and Sunburnt, Stoosh, Post Orgasmic Chill, Wonderlustre, and Black Traffic. She has provided vocals for albums by Sevendust, Tony Iommi, and a number of soundtracks. Skin is also a DJ, and she currently resides in London.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Bazillion Points; Original edition (January 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935950053
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935950059
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #424,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Laina Dawes is a heavy metal journalist and fan, who also happens to be a black woman. What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman's Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal is her personal account of dealing with being the only black woman in the concert hall. Dawes also covers the history of black women in rock music from the early days of pre-rock with Bessie Smith and Billie Holliday to Tina Turner and Skin of Skunk Anansie.

For a black person, male or female, one often faces a crisis of identity when drawn to heavy metal music. Dawes and the many women she interviewed for What Are You Doing Here? all revealed that they had to hide their record albums and when they were found out, had to face accusations from friends and family that they were somehow betraying their black heritage by their musical taste. Dawes states:

"As a black girl into metal, I had nobody with whom I could share my adoration for Rob Halford or my crush on the late Steve Clark from Def Leppard. While listening to music and perusing music magazines became a great form of escape, I always felt a bit of residual guilt. After all, black people--real black people--don't listen to metal."

However she was drawn to metal for the same reasons it attracts many of its fans:

"There was a lot of rage around me, and I knew it could be channeled into the positive energy that I found through metal."

How do other black women metal fans reconcile their musical taste with the criticisms they hear because of it? Music journalist Keidra Chaney told Dawes:

"'I didn't fit in,' she says, 'but I wasn't going to fit in anyway, so my loving metal was just another reason to be that weird chick.
Read more ›
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By Rene Gosch on February 18, 2013
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We (Black girls who <3 ROCK) don't have enough exposure, I'm glad we're breakin' through with amazing authors like Laina Dawes, and musicians like SKIN, I've followed her music for over a decade (DANG!) Thanks for putting us out there!
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As a former rock critic who dealt with the dearth of black rock bands in general, I felt as if Laina was telling my life story as I read this book. As a black woman in the rock world, I found myself fighting very hard to be taken seriously, even though I worked for one of America's largest and best newspapers. The fact that the story has changed so little all these years later makes me sad, but the fact that Laina and several other strong black female musicians are fighting the good fight--and winning, in some cases--makes me proud. This is topic that needs to be discussed, and this book is leading that discussion. It's a clarion call to all black rockers everywhere--but especially to the women who dare to blaze new trails. Beautiful book!
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This is a voice not often heard. Interesting for this reason alone. Highly recommend to anyone who has ever felt like an "outsider"
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I haven't finished it yet but I got it today and I've been reading it ever since. I was drawn to this book because I'm a 25 year old black girl that has always been ostracized by other blacks for being different and I've never had anyone to relate to about my love for heavy metal until I started using the internet. I also thought by the picture that Alexis Brown from Straight Line Stitch would be in the book like Skin but at least she's on the cover or maybe she is in here because I haven't finished the book. I also love how beautifully made this book is and how straight forward Laina is in this book so yes this is a good read for me.

UPDATE: Ok, so Alexis Brown of Straight line stitch was mentioned a few times in the book. I've learned allot from this book! I always hesitate to tell family what I listen to except friends I've met online. My parents know and they love the old school rock and metal but I'm getting more deep into the darker and heavier metal like death metal. Great book Laina Dawes!
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I found this book reading about women in heavy metal. The subject intrigued me, as a white woman and fan of heavy metal I knew what kind of suspicion and exclusion I have felt in the scene so I couldn't imagine what it might be like for women of color. It was an incredible journey and really opened my eyes to things going on in my own scene. Once my attention was brought to the sexism and prejudice in the scene it seemed really obvious. Every fan who calls them self a devotee to the hard rock, punk, hardcore or heavy metal scene should read this. All of us.
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The author shares her life and love of metal and explores why even today (in a scene that at its core welcomes everyone) the metal scene still has some growing to do.
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