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The Roots of Desire

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  407 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
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 genetic mutation, and in "The Roots of Desire," Marion Roach take ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published December 1st 2008 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published July 7th 2005)
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Sally Morris From memory, (it's been a long time since I actually read this) not much is academically accurate, except that redheads were burnt at the stake…moreFrom memory, (it's been a long time since I actually read this) not much is academically accurate, except that redheads were burnt at the stake because we carried the mark of the devil. I really can't recall much else about it. Sorry(less)
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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
Aug 16, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 20, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 01, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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".
Dec 13, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It wasn't what I expected or wanted it to be. This was very rambling. It reminded me of someone who liked to hear themselves talk. Meh. I had been looking forward to this and even ordered it from another library.
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting cultural history of red hair. However, the writing was very disorganized and the author kept going back and forth between her own experiences as a redhead and redheads throughout history.
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
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Feb 22, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Oct 16, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
May 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Coming from someone who reads nonfiction only when forced, I found The Roots of Desire to be an extremely informative journey for a redheaded person, like myself, in understanding why we are treated strangely sometimes. This treatment is usually something only a redhead would notice, because it usually consists of minute slights, such as people accusing you of having a temper when there is no evidence to prove that you do or people blatantly saying they do not like redheads. I found out not only ...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
Jan 25, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 22, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, nonfiction
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
Jan 08, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 04, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction-read
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
Peggy Best
Red heads

The author writes about myths of having naturally colored red hair. She cites historical legend. A and people from the Bible who were supposed redheads populating character due to that fact. She associates red hair with various temperaments. Red heads , she says,are hot tempered, very sexy, and a bit on the evil side. I chose to tread this book because I like the author and I happen to have two gorgeous red headed grandchildren
This book is easy to read and understAnd. The premise is on
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 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Dec 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a much more technical book than I expected but I enjoyed learning about the genetic portion of being a redhead. I had to Reread some paragraphs because the science language could be confusing. I could relate to the many anecdotes the author told, particularly when people ask me if I dye my hair. Having red hair is a huge part of my identity, so it's nice to know I'm not alone with being slightly obsessed with the history of it. I'm just glad someone else did the research!
Sue Smith
Jun 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Feb 05, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book had some fascinating information about the genetic history and societal perception of red hair. However, the overall tone was more memoir than I expected. I was also disappointed that while she examined literary examples of red hair, Anne Shirley was mentioned briefly and "The Red Headed League" not at all. The latter perfectly illustrates her thesis of red haired men being seen as dim or bumbling.
Feb 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Dec 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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.” 113 likes
“On Satan the color red is one thing; on women, it is altogether another” 7 likes
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