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Bald in the Land of Big Hair: A True Story

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Bald in the Land of Big Hair is the hilarious—and often heartbreaking—tale of Joni Rodgers's journey through the badlands of cancer told with humor, occasional anger, and unflinching honesty. More than just a cancer book, this is a deeply affecting memoir of one woman's struggle to come to terms with everything that life throws her way.

Ultimately, this is a moving celebration of the true meaning of human triumph and courage, the importance of community and the imperative of living every day with joy.

272 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2001

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About the author

Joni Rodgers

20 books31 followers
NYT bestselling author Joni Rodgers was born into a family of gospel/bluegrass musicians and grew up on stage, opening for huge-haired country music legends of the 60s and 70s. She continued performing until 1994, when she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and used the chemo downtime to complete her first two novels, both of which were published to critical acclaim. Joni's memoir, Bald in the Land of Big Hair (Harper Collins 2001), garnered glowing reviews around the world, was excerpted in Good Housekeeping, condensed by Reader’s Digest, and is still in print after ten years. It also launched Joni's public speaking career and brought her to the attention of celebrities and others who began asking her to help them tell their stories. She's known on both coasts as a ghostwriter, book doctor and memoir guru who applies the fine art of fiction to the creation of well-crafted narrative nonfiction.

Between novels and ghostwriting projects, Joni volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and blogs about books and publishing on "Boxing the Octopus". Married to jet plane mechanic/wine maker Gary Rodgers since 1983, Joni is the proud mother of two fine young adults. She lives in Houston, Texas. Her latest book debuted at #6 on the NYT bestseller list.

“A mix of Moly Ivins' blowsy wit and Anna Quindlen's suburban logic...Rodgers manages the rare literary feat of being funny and painful in one urgent breath.”
~ Entertainment Weekly

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5 stars
83 (31%)
4 stars
100 (37%)
3 stars
56 (20%)
2 stars
24 (8%)
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4 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 38 reviews
Profile Image for Joanne.
2,511 reviews
August 24, 2009
I picked up Rodgers' book after reading A Little Bit Wicked, which she wrote with Kristin Chenoweth. (After reading this book, I'm convinced Rodgers wrote most of the Chenoweth biography) It is wonderful. One would think a cancer memoir would be angst-ridden and tear-jerking. This one is tear-jerking, but there's no angst or self-pity or woe. It is funny, upbeat, self-deprecating, and sarcastic. She talks, for example, about putting on Brave Sick Person Face when people say platitudes (e.g., "It's for the best"), and I can only admire her strength. I did not know that there is a support group of survivors that mentors the newly diagnosed. I did not know that non-Hodkins lymphoma is something people with AIDS get. I did not know exactly what goes into chemo or how it affects mood, appetite, sex life, relationships, family dynamics, or faith. She is very straightforward -- brutally so -- about each of these. God bless her.
Profile Image for Bailey Knopf.
80 reviews
December 22, 2022
not a bad read, but not my favorite.

i like reading true stories about peoples cancer diagnosis and their journey with the disease, but this just wasn't too interesting to me. maybe if I knew the writer better I would find it interesting. oh well.
Profile Image for sandy .
30 reviews1 follower
February 11, 2011
I started reading this book on the first day of a 1500 mile road trip. My husband was driving. He generally doesn't like for me to read to him. But I had to read a segment of this memoir to him because it was so moving and so funny at the same time. It was so good I kept reading until we finished the book. I found myself so moved at times that I couldn't continue. I had to stop and reflect and just admire this woman's strength, her humor and her amazing writing skills.

I recommend this book for anyone who has gone through cancer, anyone who has a close loved one going through cancer treatment or who has survived. It will help you understand what they are going through on a level that few survivors ever talk about out loud.
1,157 reviews11 followers
May 18, 2017
Actress, singer, comedian, writer: Joni Rodgers is hilarious even when she is writing about her experience as a cancer survivor. Blessed with a husband who is as funny as she is, who appreciates the quirks that make her who she is, and who gets her jokes, Joni describes her life B.C. (before cancer) and her concurrent beginnings as a novelist. The realities of cancer treatments and their side effects, and her work with support groups for cancer and aids patients reveal the special person she is. If she is as good a novelist as she is a memoirist, I want to read her fiction, too.
Profile Image for Mary Karpel-Jergic.
410 reviews24 followers
February 27, 2018
An incredible book. Honest, insightful, humorous and exceptionally well written. What makes it even more wonderful is that Joni Rodgers survived cancer and continues to do so. The book charts her experience of the disease and its treatments along with the impact it has on herself and those close to her. It is an holistic stance on recovery and I would recommend it to anyone diagnosed with cancer.
Profile Image for Deb.
897 reviews22 followers
February 25, 2019
I think I read this book too close to my cancer experience. (Before I was on Goodreads.) It's not fair for me to go 'dis' it, but I remember not being able to relate to Texas big hair. It seemed forced at times. It hurts physically and emotionally to lose your hair to chemo. I kept my sense of humor by using 'curly hair' shampoo.

I'm glad others related and enjoyed more than I did. Timing makes a difference.
Profile Image for Jacki Husting.
1 review2 followers
May 7, 2019
Read this for class!

I read this book for a masters class and I’m happy I looked this book up. It put in a different perspective of a young mother with cancer and the dynamics that go into it.
Profile Image for Kristen.
9 reviews3 followers
November 22, 2018

Thank you for this candid, laugh and cry and cry and laugh insight to the real life struggle of chemotherapy and surviving cancer.
Profile Image for Jane.
1,777 reviews16 followers
June 18, 2019
Loved it! Made me laugh out loud and choke back some tears. Going to look for her fiction now.
Profile Image for Colleen.
4 reviews3 followers
March 29, 2012
This is a great book. It is very hard to get through at times-- Rodgers goes into great detail about her cancer, chemotherapy and the way her body, mind and family were affected by it all. While the book is very sad at parts, Rodgers keeps a very unique sense of humor through it that holds the book together and keeps it from becoming a sappy tearjerker. I was completely enthralled with the way she wrote about dealing with her doctors, facing her family, even dealing with the way people would look and talk to her differently. The book is so personal, from her highest highs to her lowest lows. I have never experienced anything like this with someone close to me, but it was very hard to read about this wife, mother of two and her battle against lymphoma. It's a great read, but be prepared for some very depressing spots through the story!
Profile Image for Jan Eliasberg.
Author 4 books137 followers
September 29, 2019
Joni Rodgers has an absolutely original and vibrant point of view; her voice is mordantly funny, wildly optimistic, and emotionally rich and sober, often all at the same time. I could experience anything, even the horrors of death and illness, so long as I had her voice and her optimistic perspective to guide me: she remains rock-solid real, but always eager to find that improbable silver lining in every dark cloud. The book spins the reader on a Mad Hatter's Teacup Party ride of emotions that makes everything associated with her Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma gripping -- fascinating; hilarious, and heart-breaking. I was elated right alongside her when Joni described the feeling of coming out of her long, dark tunnel -- because I want her to live in peace, happiness, and health, and because I want her to write more, more, more, to give the world more of her extravagantly wonderful stories.
Profile Image for Sarah.
343 reviews31 followers
December 10, 2008
Nothing in this book's CV suggests that I would like it: it's a cancer memoir set in Texas by a Christian who mentions her Christianity a lot -- and GET THIS it's funny! Even though it's about cancer! Life is hope! However, for whatever reason I bought it (at a library book sale for 12.5 cents) and for whatever reason I picked it up (to read in the restroom), and now I have reason to regret my unfair Book Profiling. It was genuine and genuinely enjoyable. It did not manipulate my emotions. I was pleased with her description and experience of her spirituality. And GET THIS it was funny, in a totally comfortable and appropriate way. I feel that I've probably learned from this experience, and I'll be sure to let you know when I determine how.
Profile Image for Karen Faller.
22 reviews1 follower
June 10, 2013
Joni has a great sense of humor, which served her well in her cancer battle. Her story was unique in that it was not very medically oriented and did not focus much on treatments nor on hospitalizations, rather on the profound effects cancer had on Joni herself, and on her young family. She was so young and so vitally alive when she was diagnosed, and her children were so small as well. She and her husband made a great team, and I was left wondering what else she has written and how they are doing today. I know I would like this woman in person, although I doubt we would ever have occasion to meet or even speak. She is strong, witty and her battle to reclaim her life after cancer is amazing. A great read.
720 reviews7 followers
March 4, 2010
I'm enjoying Joni's perspective about battling cancer. It's realistic and thoughtful. I could do without some of her more arty flights of fancy, and she lost my sympathy for a time when she suddenly disclosed that she'd had an abortion. I always wonder how women who decide it's "not the right time to have a child" then go on to have more children with the man whose fetus they aborted live with that decision. I would think that dead fetus would haunt you every time you looked at one of your living children. I think she could have omitted this detail and the book wouldn't have lost anything, and might have spared her children some future grief. It's a quick but thoughtful read.

Profile Image for Carlla.
155 reviews9 followers
April 3, 2010
My sister gave this book to me after she read it going through her first year of cancer. After reading all those medical books she needed humor and this is about a woman who has a form of cancer and what she goes through with a big dose of humor. I found it the other day and noticed I had not actually finished it, assuming because of all that had happened in the 3 years to her death. Just maybe 1.5 chapters to go. In those chapters were a lot of lines that my sister had highlighted, so it was interesting and sentimental to see what she highlighted and to actually finish the book and know that this women is still alive and has gone on to write more books.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
24 reviews
March 20, 2013
This is a book about cancer. The author writes openly and honestly about all aspects of her experience with cancer from the diagnosis, the treatment, the different doctors, nurses, visiting nurses, side effects, changing relationships with family and friends and the emotional ups and downs of her journey. She is very funny and attempts to use humor to get through even the most horrific parts of the disease. This would be a good book for anyone who is going through chemotherapy and knows what an isolating and scary process it can be.
Profile Image for Dalia.
15 reviews4 followers
April 10, 2013
When i first started this book i felt the author was trying too hard to be funny,and when she switched to an honest and open dialogue, it was a bit awkward, but after awhile i started accepting the back and forth as her way of dealing with her cancer in the best way she knew how.
My favorite quote from the book:
" One way or another, all things come to their healing. Truly I promise you, grace is real, God is here, and in the end, everything is going to be alright."
February 2, 2015
made me laugh. made me cry made me scared. loved it.

Had this book in my kindle for a few years. Bought it after my diagnosis of lymphoma. Did not even know it was about that. We all know that breast cancer gets all the good press!
Opened it a few days after my first chemo.
It was like I was thirsty and the book was a drink that I loved. Hated. And feared. But it quenches me when nothing else can. Not sure what to do next
Profile Image for Rebecca O..
31 reviews5 followers
February 8, 2010
I bought this book for a friend, then decided to peruse it before passing it along to make sure it was appropriate. So glad I did! The book alternates touching, spiritual, and funny moments. (the chapters describing the different responses of her two children dealing with their mother's lymphoma left me in tears more than once). Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Celeste Thayer.
61 reviews8 followers
October 3, 2011
This sweet and witty story of a lady who gets an aggressive cancer, and survives, is educational and touching at the same time. She speaks frankly of topics that tend to be edited out of popular cancer stories, such as her sex life with her husband and how her level of desire fluctuates throughout chemo, and how she keeps/doesn't keep in touch with her friends.
Profile Image for Whitney.
86 reviews9 followers
September 2, 2009
A book that I would recommend to anyone who is or is close to someone who is going through cancer. It is an real and honest story of how cancer changes your life and how your outlook can make all the difference.
Profile Image for Paula.
46 reviews2 followers
February 25, 2012
I accidentally downloaded this book onto my Kindle -- and it was meant to be. Never would have set out to read a cancer survivor's memoir, but was ready to handle it. Could laugh at some of her experiences, relate to many of her trials. Glad it's on my Kindle so I can read passages of it again.
Profile Image for B.
54 reviews
June 23, 2012
This was a funny account of what happens when you have cancer. all of the trials and tribulations of living thru that process is. told with complete honesty and a great sense of humor. I read it before recommending it to a friend, that has been just diagnosed.
Profile Image for Alex Scott.
14 reviews
March 30, 2013
I may have a bias towards this book, as I went to school with the author's daughter. However, regardless of your connection to the author, this is a very no-holds-barred memoir of a woman who tries to raise her family while battling an aggressive form of cancer.
Profile Image for Michelle.
152 reviews2 followers
July 28, 2013
It was interesting to read the perspective of someone who has lived with cancer - one never appreciates their health until it is gone. Did get a little bored sadly and felt that it was the type of book one would take a great deal from if you had been in the same position
31 reviews
March 14, 2016
Good writing. Very witty and poignant. I'm not very comfortable with people sharing very intimate details of some parts of their private lives that are best left in between their bed covers instead of the pages between their book covers.
Profile Image for Tonya.
143 reviews3 followers
May 13, 2008
A clever, and witty discussion of a tough topic. I'd like to read some of her other books now.
Profile Image for chambejd / Joy.
186 reviews6 followers
January 26, 2009
This was an touching memoir about the author's diagnosis of cancer and her struggle to survive.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 38 reviews

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