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Bald in the Land of Big Hair: A True Story Paperback – February 5, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The bestselling author of "Encyclopedia an Ordinary Life" returns with a literary experience that is unprecedented, unforgettable, and explosively human. Hardcover | Kindle book
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At first blush, a lighthearted romp through the horrors of chemotherapy seems like a stretch. Yet that is just what Rodgers has attempted with considerable success in this memoir of her bout with cancer. Even Rodgers admits, "I didn't find cancer all that funny, especially at the time." Then why the comic touch? If her previous novelsACrazy for Trying (1996) and Sugar Land (1999)Aare any indication, she delights in creating over-the-top characters whose idiosyncrasies highlight the world's absurdities. And nothing is quite so existentially absurd as a reminder that you are about to die: "You stop living and start staying alive." The comic tone enables Rodgers to render the ordeal without monochromatic grimness. While essentially a story about cancer and its implications, the vehicle is Rodgers herself. She portrays herself as a rebellious, somewhat loopy woman who, almost despite herself, managed to find professional success, marry a good husband and have two kids. Into this setting comes an intruder in the form of a lump in her neck and a puzzling loss of energy: she has a virulent lymphoma that requires aggressive treatment, including chemotherapy. While Rodgers's attempt to convey serious business lightly is commendable, the constant wisecracking keeps the reader at an emotional distance. And when she does turn serious, the insights are pedestrian: "Truly, I promise you, grace is real, God is here, and in the end, everything is going to be all right." Fortunately, Rodgers survived her ordeal. The memoir that sprang from it, though, is stronger on anecdote than insight. Agent, Laurie Harper. (Feb.) Forecast: Despite its flaws, Rodgers's book will appeal to women, especially those who enjoy feel-good, strong-women-discovering-themselves memoirs. It's the stuff of book-group discussions, and with strong marketing by HarperCollinsAa five-city author tour and a 50-city national radio campaignAsales are sure to be brisk.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Librarians don't need to buy this first-person cancer narrative, but they'll probably want to. Rodgers, a novelist (Crazy for Trying), actress, and radio DJ living in Houston ("the Land of Big Hair"), discusses being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in her early thirties. She covers the confusion of diagnosis, the horrors of chemotherapy, and, finally, the uncertainty of remission. Rodgers tells her story with wit and clarity. It's not an aggressively sad storyDin fact, much of it is funnyDbut there are moments with her daughter, husband, and mother that are heartbreaking. Her free-spirited life is interesting, even without the cancer stories, and the reader is drawn into her relationships. There are many other cancer-survivor books, but this one stands out for its appeal to general biography readers. Recommended for public and consumer health libraries, particularly in Texas.DElizabeth Williams, Fresno City Coll. Lib., CA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (February 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060955260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060955267
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #994,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on February 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Elizabeth Berg gives this book such an awesome quote on the back jacket that I had to buy and read it--she was right. She says this is "a very important book. It's not only a book about cancer but also a book about how to ground yourself in the life you're living. About how to let go of false concepts of beauty and of self and start living a far richer, truer life than you might ever have imagined. Reading this book is like being given the extraordinary insight that comes with catastrophic illness without having to endure the dieseaase itself. Read it." I couldn't say it better, now that I've read it. This is a really wonderful memoir about life, love, family, and overcoming the bad things life tends to throw your way. I did laugh and I did cry and I will read it again and again.
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Format: Hardcover
I laughed and I cried. Although Joni Rodgers cancer experience is the reason for the story, it is not the whole story. This is a book about how one woman and one family dealt with a terrible illness. How they pulled apart and pulled together. How a Mom & Dad lived through one of the scariest of modern America's illnesses. The cancer is there, lurking in the background through the entire book, but the real story is how Joni & Gary brought Malachi and Jerusha into the circle of the illness and made them a part of the healing process. You'll hear the cries of a little girl sitting on the floor outside the bathroom door as her Mother goes through the agony of chemo-aftermath, and you can picture her as she comforts her Mom by holding a wet wash cloth to her burning forehead and becomes part of the healing experience. You can see cancer from a small boys viewpoint as Malachi tells the story of a Prince who goes forth to slay the dragon and find the magic moss which will save the Queen from her terrible sickness. From the initial diagnosis to her fight with God in the shower stall, Joni Rodgers will pull the reader inside the family circle. Your heart will ache with sadness and with joy as she shares the most intimate details of a terrible time. This is a great story. I cried. I laughed. I read it again.
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Format: Paperback
Review of Bald in the Land of Big Hair (a true story) by Joni Rodgers. HarperCollins, 2001. Hardback. 253 pages. ISBN: 0-06-019588-6

Rodgers is the author of two novels, Crazy for Trying, and Sugarland, but has made an impression in the non-fiction field by writing her cancer memoir, and being a keynote speaker for a variety of cancer related organizations.

The title is a concise preview of what the reader will encounter. Rodgers is diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at the age of thirty-two, while married and raising two children. "Bald" refers to a side effect of chemotherapy, and "big hair" refers to the styles of the big state of Texas, where over done hair is the norm. Rodgers takes us through the indignities of cancer and the treatments. In doing so, she reaches to the core of her being, without clothing, accessories, and flamboyant hairstyles. Although Rodgers tackles the serious subject of her war against cancer, she does so with humor that will have the reader laughing out loud.

Even the chapter titles are funny: "Cleopatra, Queen of Denial" "Hairless in Houston" "Lights, Cancer, Action" Yet the prologue offers great prose: "When tomorrow was still a given and ignorance was still bliss, I was floating along like a paper sailboat on a lazy river, too caught up in my life to know that I was dying. But the day you're diagnosed with cancer, you stop dying and start surviving. You stop living and start staying alive." Anyone who has battled cancer will recognize the truth in this paragraph. Rodgers tells us the truth of her fears, the ugly effects of treatment, and her will to survive.

Although cancer is not hilarious, Rodgers makes it sound comical.
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By Lu Hubert on February 28, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This story touched me deeply I'm not sure I would ever have had the fortitude to go through what she went through. 3 1/2 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer and testing had progressed to the point that recurrence probability could be detected. I got to skip chemo and radiation and survived with only a mastectomy however that changed my life profoundly too. When I read this story I realize what a lucky and blessed life I am living.
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Format: Hardcover
I have never had cancer or even known someone with the disease, so I wasn't sure if I would enjoy this book -- but I did! What made me appreciate Rodgers' novel was that it wasn't a collection of survivor bromides and platitudes, inspirational quotes, or overused Bible passages. In fact, the author did a fine job explaining her true feelings about all those "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"-like messages. I also liked the fact that Rodgers doesn't hide the less-than-appealing parts of the disease - vomiting, mouth sores, disappearing toenails - and also addresses more personal matters like her sexuality during the disease's course and relationship with her young children. It was real and uncensored, which gave the book a complete human quality.
And, of course, this book was also very funny! Rodgers has a way with words that will have you laughing in spurts throughout the novel.
I was never bored reading this book and finished it in less than two days. Aside from being a good read, it also introduced me to the pitfalls of cancer that I never knew about before.
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