Red: A History of the Redhead by Jacky Colliss Harvey


Goodreads Synopsis: RED: A HISTORY OF THE REDHEAD is the first book to explore the history of red hair and red-headedness throughout the world. With an obsessive fascination that is as contagious as it is compelling, author Jacky Colliss Harvey begins her quest in prehistory and traces the redhead gene as it made its way out of Africa with the early human diaspora, to its emergence under Northern skies. She goes on to explore red hair in the ancient world (from the Tarim mummies in China to the Islamic kingdom of the Khazars); the prejudice manifested against red hair across medieval Europe; red hair during the Renaissance as both an indicator of Jewishness during the Inquisition and the height of fashion in Protestant England, where it was made famous by the Henry VIII and Elizabeth I; the modern age of art, and literature, and the first positive symbols of red hair in children’s characters; modern medicine and science and the genetic and chemical decoding of red hair; and finally, red hair in contemporary culture, from advertising and exploitation to “gingerism”; and the new movement against bullying. More than a book for redheads, RED is the exploration of evolution and gene mutation, as well as a compelling social and cultural study of how prejudice and misconceptions of “other”; evolve across centuries and continents and from one culture to another.

Find on Goodreads and Amazon.

I decided to read this book off of a whim, since I generally enjoy non-fiction I assumed this book would be interesting.

At 240 pages Red definitely taught me a lot about the history of redheads, which I really enjoyed learning about. I had never known that a lot of the stereotypes we have about redheads goes back to ancient times. There was also some information about the redhead gene, and that was interesting to me because I don’t really know a lot about genetics.  Maybe this isn’t new information for everyone, but it was for me.

I didn’t really like the writing style. The chapters were pretty dense, and sometimes I felt like the author got off topic.  So this book definitely wasn’t my favorite, but I’m not going to tell anyone not to read it.  To me, Red came off less as a history and more as a manifesto with some history thrown in. Which is fine, but I was hoping for more about the historical side of things.

In the end I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads.

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