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What Are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman's Life and Liberation in Heavy Metalby Laina Dawes
Synopses & Reviews
Laina Dawes is not always the only black woman at metal shows, and she's not always the only headbanger among her black female friends. In her first book, the Canadian critic and music fan questions herself, her headbanging heroes, and dozens of black punk, metal, and hard rock fans to answer the knee-jerk question she's heard a hundred times in the small clubs where her favorite bands play: "What are you doing here?"
"Growing up in Canada in the1980s, Dawes felt exponentially ostracized by her peers. Not only was she one of the few black students in her school, she was also into heavy metal music that was often wildly misunderstood by outsiders. In an effort to understand the exclusion and discrimination she felt (and that, she says, female punk and metal fans continue to experience), Dawes does an admirable job of studying the complex knot of gender, race, and rock. Drawing on discussions with musicians, sociologists, and fellow fans, Dawes identifies the misconceptions, misogyny, stigmatization, and outright racism that come into play when a woman of color 'throws the horns' at a metal show. A black woman's appearance in a rock band, Dawes says, is perceived as an invasion of a man's space. And among blacks, metal was derided as 'white' music. The good news, according to Dawes, is that attitudes are changing, as are the opportunities for aspiring black metal artists, not to mention the online communities that have made it easier for fans to communicate and commiserate. This is a thoughtful and inspiring study on a topic few outside the scene might have considered. 20 b&w photos. (Oct.) Rock Chronicles: Every Legend. Every Line-up. Every Look Edited by David Roberts, foreword by Alice Cooper Firefly, .95 trade paper with flaps (576p) ISBN 978-1-77085-117-7 The year-in, year-out grind of rock stardom is meticulously mapped in this prosaic encyclopedia of notable bands. The AC/DC-to-ZZ Top selection includes 250 groups from the classic rock era and later (just a handful of stars from the 1950s appear), comprising all the familiar names along with influential obscurities — Captain Beefheart! EinstĂ‛Ă‚ÂĽrzende Neubauten! — and representative Asian, continental and Brazilian ensembles. (The visually flamboyant groups — especially heavy-metal divas — get ogled in color photo spreads of grimacing long-hairs.) Colorful graphics detail album releases, sales figures, and shifting rosters of bandmates (16 people have staffed Iron Maiden over the years, only one permanently), but the focus on details tends to bog down the uneven interpretive essays: while some entries offer stimulating commentary on the music, others are mainly a record of personnel turnover among small fry. (Gossip is disappointingly sparse.) Casual data-mining reveals striking patterns: rock music is almost as male-dominated as pro baseball; bands are such onerous workplaces that their members can't wait to quit; and they always come back for sextagenarian reunion tours. At its best, this hit-and-miss medley will introduce browsers to music they hadn't realized they would like. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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.
Table of Contents
Who Put That Shaven-Headed Black Woman on the Stage?” Foreword by Skin
Introduction, by Laina Dawes
I. Canadian Steel
II. Metal Can Save Your Life (or at Least Your Sanity)
III. Im Here Because We Started It!
IV. So You Think Youre White?
V. The Only One” Syndrome
VI. Too Black, Too Metal, and All Woman
VII. The Lingering Stench of Racism in Metal
VIII. Remove the Barricades and Stagedive!
Appendix: What Are You Doing Here?” — The Survey
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