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Blonde Like Me: The Roots of the Blonde Myth in Our Culture [Paperback]

Natalia Ilyin
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 22 2000
In this irreverent, unsparing, and witty look at our cultural obsession with blonde, Natalia Ilyin shows us that our apparently modern fixation has truly primeval roots. Highlighting cultural criticism with personal experience, she cites ancient myths, Hollywood iconography, and the daily assault of advertising to reveal why the allure of being a blonde has crossed the boundaries of ethnicity, economics, and age. In essence, she shows us the difference between simply having blonde hair and being a blonde.

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From Library Journal

Ilyin, a teacher and a critic, has constructed an insightful and humorous examination of the meaning and myth of the blonde, especially blonde women, in American society. She introduces us to a few different kinds of blondes--the Apollo Blonde, the Trophy Blonde, the California Sun Blonde, the Moon Blonde, and the Ironic Blonde--each of whom corresponds to a series of cultural ideas and attitudes. Using real-life blondes like Marilyn Monroe, Martha Stewart, and Gloria Steinem to demonstrate these categories and weaving references to cultural theorists like Joseph Campbell and Robert Graves into the narrative, Ilyin has written a unique book. A nice companion to Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll (Morrow, 1994); recommended for libraries serving general readers and undergraduates.
-Jenny Lynn Presnell, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A flip, funny, thought-provoking evocation of the need to be a blonde amid all its mythic and symbolic ramifications. Because peripatetic cultural theorist Ilyin, whos taught at Yale and Cooper Union, was born a blonde and remained one until puberty, she and others like her, she avers, have the right to live a ``blonde life.'' That can mean anything from getting more attention from taxi drivers, subway conductors, and waiters to becoming the next Marilyn Monroe. Ilyins discourse begins with an inventory of the blondes on boxes in the hair-care aisle, ranging from the Golden Sunlight Blonde (most popular) to the lightest Baby Blonde. They break down into three categories: Sun Goddesses, Moon Goddesses, and Innocents. Among the blondes who preserve the face of innocencevulnerable, presexual, forever youngare the Virgin Mary, Princess Diana, and Nicole Simpson. Among the Sun Blondes are Martha Stewart (in the Summer Wheat subcategory) and Farrah Fawcett, epitome of the California blonde. But even sun blonde has its darker side, illuminated by delving into creation myths, Jung, and Hitlers Aryan ideal. A discussion of omnipotent Moon Blondes leads into tales of ancient goddesses, transformed today into the compelling yet dangerous decadence of Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel. Further subcategories include the Ironic Blonde (Gloria Steinem), the mixed blonde (Dolly Parton), and the old blonde, who opts for pastel colors in an attempt to hide the dreaded mythical crone beneath the look of a Walt Disney fairy godmother. It is not mere vanity at play with the peroxide bottle, says Ilyin, but a heroic attempt to blend myth with reality. Blondes, she notes, want to be remembered, just like the (blonde) Vikings. Must reading for all blondes, friends of blondes, and would-be blondesnone of whom will ever look at a dark root in the same way again. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Myth, Life, and Hair Sept. 20 2003
Format:Paperback
My wife's blonde. My 57 year-old mother just dyed her once-brunette Italian coif blonde. I needed to read this book, and so do you. Ilyin covers not only fashion and consumer culture, she dips into myth, symbolism, history, and gender. What made this enjoyable was the spin placed on her personal anecdotes. She looks back with a critical eye and, it's an eye capable of seeing beneath the surface. Taking on popular culture, religion, and (of course) hair coloring, Ilyin shows us that appearances can sometimes be deceiving. And most of the time, they simply are.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Creative and explorative July 28 2003
Format:Paperback
Ilyin does a fabulous job of drawing the pictures of the various types of blondes. She helps the reader to see that blonde alone is just a color but the wearer of the blonde makes the blonde.
Sometimes it seems as though she digs too hard to find evidence and examples. Most of the time she effectively draws compelling conclusions. I am able to see blondes through more complex filters now, and in fact with a bit less mystique. That may or may not have been her objective with the book, but nonetheless, it made some impact.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not quite what I thought it was June 13 2003
Format:Paperback
This book is a great little book to read for the purpose of leisure reading. However, if you're looking for a plethora of information on blondes and why people are fascinated with blonde hair, I would suggest you turn your attention elsewhere, such as the book "On Blondes" by Joanna Pitman.
That being said, the book was interesting. It was more an account of the author's life than a book on the history of "the blonde myth," however. She seemed to talk a lot about herself, and then to ramble on about her family, and then to ramble on about some other random subject and finally tie it back to blonde hair.
I would say if you are interested in reading a random woman's memoir, go with this book. If you are interested in reading about blondes, look elsewhere.
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4.0 out of 5 stars What does Ilyin make of Catherine Zeta-Jones? Aug. 9 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
First of all, I do not believe that was really Ilyin who posted here. Ilyin's intelligence level comes across brilliantly in the book. I do not believe the real Ilyin would have said some of those things, much less misspelled "disdainful."
Now. The passage that struck me the most in the book was when Ilyin was telling about going back to school at a ritzy graduate school and how real education rearranges your mind. Then she "turned the kleig lights of [her] education" on blondeness. I am glad she did. But aside from the topic of the book, that one passage made me want to get more education.
I think it is a scholarly book. That was fascinating about the bounty goddesses (Summer Wheat and California Sun.)
I wonder if stunning brunettes like Catherine Zeta-Jones symbolize anything at all? Or are they, too, thought to be associated with (I guess) impurity? As a brunette, I have picked up on the association of blondes with purity even though it didn't seem fair (if by implication brunettes are associated with impurity, and I think in my experience we are.) There isn't a thing I can do about it; much less women of color. I look at old Rita Coolidge albums and I can't help it; the woman was *beautiful.* I am not criticizing Ilyin, but the culture that wouldn't recognize the beauty of a Cher or Rita Coolidge if they came along today. Ilyin explains why. It isn't fair, but at least Ilyin acknowledges that I didn't make this up in my head.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brunette Like Me Aug. 12 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Natalia Ilyin has written a masterful little book, filled with insights on the blond archetype in our culture, brilliant descriptions of blond subtypes (the "Armpiece Blond" and the Martha Stewart segments are hilarious), and warm memoirs of her own blond childhood to adulthood.
As a brunette with a California blond daughter, and an East Coast mother who had a blond childhood but elected to grow out of it, I was intrigued to find every blond I've known (practically) described almost flawlessly in this little book. The value we place on golden hair is obvious in this society. But as we become more diverse, and as people with darker hair and skin become more dominant, the value may change. I recently had a compliment from an African-American woman who admired my summer tan. "But you're not dark enough," she added.
It would be interesting to have had a footnote, at least, from the author with some comment about women of color. I wonder, will the value change enough as our races merge so that blond eventually looses some of its mystique.
"Blond Like Me" is a quick read of interest to both scholars and casual readers. It should be taken seriously by reviewers and social commentators.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Blonde Like Me, a great companion July 26 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I picked up Blonde Like Me because I needed something light to read on a plane. It turned out to be much more than humor and entertainment, although it was that in spades. This story about the meaning of blondeness, and its meticulously researched and scholarly explanation of why so many women (and men) yearn after the golden crown blondness implies, is a metaphor that reveals much deeper stuff about the ways people search to matter in life. Anecdotes from the author's own life that form the core for each chapter reveal a fresh, civilized attitude totally lacking in pretension. As Howard Thurman wrote, we all long for relationships in which we do not need to pretend. I, for one, found that the candor and vulnerability displayed without vulgarity (imagine reading a book these days where you are not obliged to be constantly scraping scatalogical images off your consciousness), and layers of insights through feelings graciously and generously revealed made me feel heartened on my own journey. Although Ms. Ilyin's depth of learning is carried so lightly on waves of truly delicious wit and engaging stories, deeper insights kept surfacing. I felt this was a book that could accompany many different journeys and I subsequently gave it to friends young and old who were experiencing various life challenges. Without exception, each reported back that they found in it something that mirrored their own circumstances. For them, as for me, the book provided a good companion, lighthearted but compassionate, on the road to menschdom.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Give me a break
Give me a break. What a shallow, not to mention trivial subject-- worthy, perhaps, of an article in Cosmo, but as a book--no way. Read more
Published on July 18 2000
3.0 out of 5 stars from a naturally blonde, 25-year-old reader
This book is good for entertainment; in fact, it's a page-turner. It's like a really long "Mademoiselle" article. Read more
Published on May 25 2000 by Clancy Ratliff
5.0 out of 5 stars LOL with Teenage Blonde
Don't wait! Buy it for guaranteed laughs. As a fifty-something "blonde" and mother of two blondes (and sister and aunt to innumerable radical brunettes) I can report... Read more
Published on March 28 2000 by "mulehouse"
5.0 out of 5 stars LOL with Teenage Blonde
Don't wait! Buy it for guaranteed laughs. As a fifty-something "blonde" and mother of two blondes (and sister and aunt to innumerable radical brunettes) I can report... Read more
Published on March 28 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Suicide Blonde (dyed by her own hand)
"I'm not offended by people who think I'm a dumb blonde, because I know two things they don't: I'm not dumb, and I'm not blonde. Read more
Published on March 26 2000 by d. l. goines
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun read for non-blondes, too
Unlike the author, I'm a currently natural blonde, so I know I'm not her target audience. That hardly matters; any woman could relate to this book. Read more
Published on March 3 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars I laughed out loud all the way down the hair care aisle
Natalia Ilyin tells stories on herself, from her childhood in Paris (under the chafing dish table in four-year-old bliss with a cocktail meatball in each hand), through adolescence... Read more
Published on March 2 2000 by Mother of two
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