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The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning, and Sexual Power of Red Hair

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  327 ratings  ·  65 reviews
"A unique blend of personal and cultural history."--Harper's Bazaar

Already in its sixth HARDCOVER printing, The Roots of Desire is a witty and entertaining investigation into the power, myth and meaning of red hair. Redheads have been worshipped, idealized, fetishized, feared, and condemned, leaving their mark on us and our culture. Such is the power of what is actually a
Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 11th 2006 by Bloomsbury USA (first published July 7th 2005)
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I didn't dislike every aspect of this book. Some of the mythological information was pretty interesting. But the same details were often repeated over and over. It seemed like she was clinging to straws trying to make her point with the same small bits of information.

This book is more memoir than scientific/mythological investigation. Roach constantly observes how her personal journey is inextricably bound with her search for the meaning, cause, and genetic usefulness of red hair. Toward the end
Danielle Louise
I worked at a bookstore shortly after this book was published, and it caught my eye whenever I walked past for months. I only recently remembered it and decided to pick it up from the library. And I have to say, I'm so glad I didn't buy it back in the day.

This is one of those books that I had to force myself to finish even though I wasn't really enjoying it. For me, the problem wasn't how much of it was memoir -- for the most part, I found that interesting, if a bit irritating when she assumed h
As a redhead, the concept of this book, at least the concept suggested by its cover, was exciting. I looked forward to tracing the history of red hair and learning about ancient perceptions, folklore, and redheads of yesteryear. While the book presents some of this, I perceived the bulk of its narrative as a writer's desire to reaffirm her self-worth for being a redhead. I believe the vast majority of people who'd be interested in reading this book are redheads and, personally, as a redhead, you ...more
This was a great story about a woman's search for finding ou who she is. As a redhead, I can tell you much of what she reveals are thoughts I've had myself. When I was in high school I went on a field trip to France. On the Metro a woman dressed in (what I'll describe as) gypsy attire started at me - glaring. I turned to a friend and said, "What's her problem?" My friend explained that in some religions redheads were seen as "witches". I was shocked.

My Grampa always called me Little Red, then B
Araminta Matthews
I am thinking of changing my license plate to "MC1R." No joke.

Anyone who knows me knows that the first way I identify myself to others, in writing, as a human being on this earth, is by my hair color. I'm a redhead, a ginger, a strawberry blonde, and while my hair color has faded with the years to a dull version of its gingery self, I am embedded with the strands of my flame-colored identity.

This book by my sister-redhead, Marion Roach, should be called The Redhead Bible. In it, she endeavors t
A fascinating book. Being of the crimson hued myself, I particularly enjoyed discovering where so many of the myths and perceptions that still hold true today stemmed from originally.
I also sympathize with the author in that, after learning to embrace being a bloodnut, it is somewhat dismaying to suddenly realize it is slowly fading and becoming a slightly more muted form of how I usually see myself. I had blood red hair as a child and then flame red in my teens then a golden red in my 20’s and
Are you a redhead? Know one? Love one? Loathe one? You will enjoy this book. The author, a fellow redhead, is a bit self-indulgent but that's like my pot calling her kettle black. It's not as if I've gone out of my way to read a book about blondes lately - ever actually.

Roach gives the reader insight into not just red hair, but the color red itself and what it symbolizes and how that shapes a redhead's identity and how others identify us - consciously or not.

Then there's the science. 4% of the p
At times this book seemed long-winded and too detailed. But after reading another book that was very weak, I appreciate the attention to detail. I had hoped for some more fun information. I did enjoy the discussion with the graphic artist and how they see redheads. The redhead is always the "bad-ass".
One of my new year's goals is to read some of the books that have been sitting on my shelves for a while that I haven't gotten around to reading yet. This was the first one that I reached for since, of course, I find the topic fascinating.

I think I wanted something different from the book though, than what I got. This is a personal look at being a redhead, and does exactly what the subtitle suggests. It ventures back into the mythology of red hair, and the assumptions that go along with it.

I fo
I found this book to be frustrating, it seemed to be a rambling story that often left me unsure of where the author was going. It was also quite over written in parts, taking several pages to describe a concept that could have been covered in a couple of paragraphs. There is also a lot of random person details about the author, and the trips to witch camp and Darwin's house seemed large pointless to the story. I gave it two stars because there were some interesting snippets about red heads in hi ...more
Sep 30, 2014 K8 rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Redheads
Shelves: non-fiction, 2012
In a Nutshell: A book exploring the mythology and culture treatment surrounding redheads.

It was not as good as I wanted it to be, although it did have some interesting facts, such as:

- Redheads were often sacrificed in Egypt (burned & ashes scattered)
- Roughly 4% of the world population is redhead, but can increase up to 10% in places like Scotland
- Red hair thought to be an imbalance of the humors (too much blood)
- Redheads thought to be smelliest of women (smelling like amber & violet
I read this before I gifted it to a friend (yes, how underhanded of me) and I was never once tempted to steal it for my own bookshelf. 'Roots of Desire' is mildly interesting at points but I found it hard to get through the rest of it. There seems to be only 3 topics to this book: 1) Red haired women are viewed as attractive, sexy, fiery and/or magical but red haired men are not; 2) Red hair was historically reviled and viewed with suspicion... Ok, there are really only 2 points and the rest is ...more
I was recommended this one by a friend who's a natural redhead (I myself am a blonde-turned-redhead, so it did seem intriguing.

I'm mixed on how to feel after having finished this.

First for the good details. Roach's interest in red hair is deifnitely noticeable, and her passion for her research comes through in her writing. I really loved the delving into mythology, and it was interesting to see references throughout history. I also found the scientific details interesting. The book was split i
Marion Roach is a redhead, from a long line of redheads. Fascinated by the depictions of her (our, I should say) kind in literature, art, and even science, she sets out to understand red hair and what makes it so fascinating. She tracks down the scientists who uncovered the redhaired genome, talks to geneticists, biologists, and genealogists, witches and clergymen, looks at historical figures with red hair, and depictions of red hair in art, history, plays, books, and urban legend. She also rela ...more
Amy Brand
Interesting information on succubi, the myth of Lilith, Jews and red hair, witches, the symbolic meaning of red hair on women vs. men, etc. I could have used more information about the genetic component, as the few tidbits given were one of the highlights of the book for me. Interesting facts - the redheaded gene can be reliably identified and traced. Red hair is thought to have evolved and persevered as a genetic trait, especially in climes far from the equator, because the fair skin which goes ...more
An enjoyably self-indulgent exploration both for this redheaded reader and for the redheaded author. Roots of Desire touches on the history of redheads, the folklore that accompanies this hair color, and the science behind why some people (4% of the population) have red hair. Marion Roach glides through all of these aspects as a means of self-discovery. I enjoyed accompanieing her on her journey, but I think she probably got a lot more out of it than her readers do. There's a wide breadth and no ...more
A redheaded lady at a renaissance festival recommended this book for me to read after braiding my auburn hair. I think it has at long last described my 'heterozygous' red-headed nature with the scientific (genetic) explanation of how red heads are "made" ... along with some of the many myths that accompany the image of the red head.

The writer goes back and forth between scientirfic explanations, personal commentary and mythology, which I felt broke up the flow of the book, but the book is short
I randomly picked this one up from the library because (1) I like history/culture books centered on weird body facts, and (2) I initially thought it was by Mary Roach, the author of Stiff (not the case, but quite the weird coincidence). In any case, I enjoyed the book and learned quite a bit. There are apparently a lot of "common" stereotypes and legends about redheads that I'd never heard before, and the stories behind them are really rather fascinating. Roach includes a lot of autobiographica ...more
As a redhead myself, I enjoyed seeing how I related to other redheads. The looks we get, the questions, "is it dyed?" lol. The history behind redheads and how we are depicted throughout history. From Eve to Cain to witches and harlots. I did have a hard time following her train of thought. Sometimes she seemed to ramble on and I got lost in her words.

If you are a redhead, you probably would think the book was ok...if you aren't (unless you have a fascination or fetish for redheads) you probably
Nov 16, 2007 Carla rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: redheads, genetics/history nerds
Not as impressed as I thought I'd be...but a fun read, over all. I think I was more entertained by the author's own Story, and finding out about her family, than the genetics bits about Red Heads.
There wasn't as much Information, as I'd believed, but again...I appreciate that I got to know the author. She seems a well versed worldly person, and really got to the heart of the matter.
Which was, Who are we Really, us Red Heads?
And we really care? Not so much. We Know That we are Red, and
Dianne Guindon
Interesting book.
Sue Smith
What a great book! Having red hair in my family I was piqued to know what it was all about and the book didn't disappoint. It really was a quest for the author Marion Roach to understand what a red head is and what being was has meant over time and now. Really, really interesting needless to say! I love the depth of her research and the pervading sense of determination and humor in her writing. For all you red heads, enjoy! For the rest - well - you can enjoy it too!
I just wanted this to be more than it was. It was a light and fluffy pop history type examination of red hair. I wanted more sources and analysis. I wanted more of why there are these associations with red hair that she just didn't provide. She tried, but didn't succeed for the most part. I also didn't really need all her personal comments and stories. It was sometimes interesting though. It's a good jumping off point. I want more.
D. Sarah
As a redhead, I found this book fascinating. I loved the history of the myths surrounding redheads and it was interesting to learn how the red hair gene is actually a mutated gene, similar to the mutation that caused blue eyes. It's definitely easier to be a redhead in the US than in the UK, but I think redheads all over the world will get a kick out of this book.
I'm normally not a huge fan of non-fiction but I found this ultimately interesting. From the history of the myths to the science. I thought Marion Roach did an excellent job of making it intriguing enough with her own stories as well as the narration of everything else that while you're getting factual information, you're also wanting to keep reading.
There are a lot of crazy people out there and I'm so very glad I didn't live a long time ago. I probably would have been hanged as a witch or sent to the outskirts of town to live out my life. There are way too many myths and superstitions with people that have red hair. A really interesting book though written by a redhead of course.
Morgue Anne
I got this book as a gift for my brother's girlfriend (they're both redheads), and just had to read it before I gave it to her. This book talks a lot about perception and identity, which I thought was great. A fun little read with myths, science, and personal stories, Roots of Desire is well worth checking out.
Wanting to find out more of the history, science and social implications of my red hair, I was sorely disappointed in this book. This author's writing style was pretty awful--poor sentence structure & organization. The result was a rambling text that never seemed to have a point and stick with it.
One of my father's five sisters was a red head, and I have always longed to be one, so I was particularly intrigued by this book. It
was interesting and fun and also made me aware of all the negative stereotypes - maybe even more than blondes. Roach's book is short,
fact-filled and very entertaining.
A very interesting book that looks into both the science and the popular perception of redheads throughout the ages. Slightly self-indulgent but definitely worth the read for not just redheads and redhead aficionados, but anyone interested in social perception, status, and genetics.
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“All the action adventure girls have red hair," he said. "Whenever it is an independent girl, not a sidekick person, when she has her own mind or does as good as the guys, she has red hair.” 95 likes
“On Satan the color red is one thing; on women, it is altogether another” 8 likes
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