The mere mention of red hair conjures vivid images and provokes strong reactions. Popular stereotypes of redheaded women range from the fiery-tempered vixen and the penitent prostitute—Mary Magdalene is often portrayed in art as a redhead—to the fun-loving scatterbrain Lucille Ball. Red-haired men, meanwhile are consistently associated with either the savage barbarian or the redheaded clown. But why?
Red: A History of the Redhead is the first book to chronicle red hair and redheadedness from prehistory to present day. As both intrepid cultural detective and compelling storyteller, Jacky Colliss Harvey weaves a fascinating history beginning with the moment the redheaded gene made its way out of Africa with the early human diaspora. She goes on to trace red hair in the ancient world, the intolerance manifested against it as an indicator of Jewishness across medieval Europe, red hair as the height of fashion in Renaissance England, the redheaded “stunner” in Pre-Raphaelite art and the paintings of the Impressionists, and into the modern age, from its symbolism and adoration in popular culture to “gingerism,” perhaps the last unacknowledged from of discrimination.
More than a book for redheads, Red is both an exploration of red hair as “other” and a celebration of every aspect of its unique social and scientific heritage, at a time when it has never before been so frequently in the news or played such a prominent role in our visual culture. Download and start listening now!