Saturday, December 31, 2016

Red: A History of the Redhead by Jacky Colliss Harvey

    • Red: A History of the Redhead by Jacky Colliss Harvey
    • Published June 9, 2015
    • First book by author. Upcoming book in 2017 My Life as a Redhead: A Journal

    • A history of red hair and its genetics with special emphasis on art and culture.
    • The author herself is a redhead and also includes a few personal stories about it, including her trip to the Netherlands for Redhead Day.

    • I am not a redhead myself but I know several: my best friend, her daughter, my husband's grandmother, one of our nieces and her children. I can't think of anyone on my side of the family who is a natural redhead though so we must not have the gene for it.
    • This was an interesting book and had some interesting information on the subject.
      • Red hair is a genetic mutation that seems to have helped as humans moved into the areas of the planet with less sunshine. Pale skin often goes along with red hair and this helps the body take in more Vitamin D.
        • Unfortunately, it also means more incidences of skin cancers.
        • Many red-haired people have different pain tolerances than brown-, black- or blond-haired folk: some studies say more tolerant, some say less.
      • It tended to show more strongly in populations on the edges of civilization, hence why it shows more in the Scots, Irish and other Northern European groups. It also existed in Jewish populations as they generally didn't marry outside their religion in centuries past.
        • Smaller populations give the genes more chances to express themselves.
      • With red hair came generalizations in history: 
        • Wimpier men (probably due to their pale skin which was somehow considered less manly. 
        • Bad tempered, males and females both.
        • Sexually aggressive females.
      • Many artworks feature redheads, at a greater percentage of the general population.
        • It is supposed that painters just liked painting redheads more because it was more challenging or they just liked mixing red paints.
        • Mary Magdalene was almost always painted with red hair even though The Bible does not mention her hair color at all.
          • She was often portrayed as a fallen woman, thus the sexual aggressiveness generalization meant she had to be red-haired.
    • The author, based on her own experience and her interviews of other redheads, thinks that most children disliked their red hair color as children, when people tease them about it or often comment on it, but love having red hair as adults because it stands out more.
      • Red hair dye shades are supposedly the most popular colors purchased today.
    • Fun, quick read, but lots of art history is covered. Paintings are mentioned and while some are included in the photos section of the book not all are. I looked up a few so I could follow along more easily.
    • Recommended for those interested in art, culture and the existence of red hair.


  1. I am very excited about the existence of red hair.

    1. Remember that time you showered right after me and then said to your wife, "Neither of us can ever have an affair with a redhead and get away with it"? (Something like that.) This is also a major plot point in the movie "The Kids Are All Right."

      I love my genetic mutation!!