Author(s): Jacky Colliss Harvey
"NEW YORK TIMES "BESTSELLERThe brilliantly told, captivating history of red hair throughout the ages and across multiple disciplines, including science, religion, politics, feminism and sexuality, literature, and art The mere mention of red hair calls to mind vivid pictures. Stereotypes of redheaded women range from the funloving scatterbrain, like Lucille Ball, to the fiery-tempered vixen or the penitent prostitute (Mary Magdalene, for example, is almost always depicted as a redhead). Red-haired men are often associated with either the savage barbarian or the redheaded clown. But why is this so? "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, only to emerge 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 are handed down through generations and from one culture to another.
According to Grant McCracker, author of "Big Hair: A Journey into The Transformation of Self" (1995), "The study of hair does not take you to the superficial edges of our society... It takes you, instead, to the center of things." In Red, Harvey drills down to that center to find a mother lode of lore and more about the hair color found in just two per cent of the world's population. Beginning with our earliest ancestors and continuing down through the ages, this witty, wide-ranging study examines red hair through the lenses of art, literature, science, sexuality, culture, religion and politics. Fascinating facts abound. For example, we learn that the gene for red hair did not originate in Ireland or Scotland, as we might expect, but in the people who migrated from Africa to the grasslands of central Asia and, eventually, into Europe. Old wives' tales, scientific discoveries, historical accounts, fads in fashion, and trends in the arts are mined to great effect, resulting in a comprehensive and thoroughly enjoyable narrative embellished with stunning illustrations and photographs. Carolyn Mulac, Booklist"
Jacky Colliss Harvey is a writer and editor. She studied English at Cambridge University and art history at the Courtauld Institute. She has worked in museum publishing for the past 20 years and is a commentator and reviewer who speaks in both the U.K. and abroad on the arts and their relation to popular culture. Her red hair has also found her an alternative career as a life model and a film extra playing everything from a society lady in "Atonement" to a Parisian whore in "Bel-Ami." She lives in London."