Phoebe Robinson’s New Essay Collection Combines Hilarious Insight And Serious Reflection
Don’t let her funny, laidback approachability fool you – Phoebe Robinson is a powerhouse. The comedian, author, and activist launched a publishing imprint, started a production company, and wrote a book since the COVID lockdown. The new book, a collection of essays called Please Don’t Sit On My Bed In Your Outside Clothes, is a comic, linguistically whimsical, and honest series of reflections on topics often difficult to confront without Robinson’s unique perspective. She joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to share a little slice of her fascinating life, and the experiences that find their way into her many creative expressions.
On Robinson’s special knack for casual writing and coining neologisms:
“One of the things that I love about language and about writing is that there are a lot of times where literature, in general, can just come off as so pretentious and so snobby, and so I always want to reject that. And even if I’m talking about something serious like performative allyship, or the decision to be voluntarily child-free, I want to talk about it in a way that’s not only accessible but that is not taking myself too seriously, and instead is sort of being like, ‘We’re all in this together, let’s talk about it.’”
“I think it makes the reader… also not take themselves too seriously, and remember, ‘Oh right, I can have fun, and I can poke fun at myself, and I can poke fun at the things that I believe in, because I’m confident enough to know that it won’t rattle me,’” said Robinson.
On Black literature and where representation gets tunnel vision:
“I feel like there’s such a push for publishing works where it’s about Black people dealing with trauma, and there’s an appetite to read that,” said Robinson. “I always want people to sort of take a beat, and think about why that is, and why there isn’t the rallying cry or the rabid support around books by Black authors that are about Black life that’s not just dealing in trauma and adversity, and really, I want people to think about the way they buy books, and buy books that have something to do with Black joy… The Black experience is so wide-ranging, and I think to have it just boiled down to pain and suffering just does a disservice to us.”
Regarding her essay “Yes, I Have Free Time Because I Don’t Have Kids:”
“I know society still values women based on motherhood, and if you’re a good mother, which, the standards are so high for women to do everything perfectly… if you don’t subscribe to that lifestyle, or if that’s not something that you want, and you choose to not have children, or there’s circumstances beyond your control… your womanhood is put into question,” said Robinson. “I just felt like there’s such a stigma if a woman chooses to not have children, to look at her life, to really take into account everything that she wants or doesn’t want… That decision is so negatively judged.”
“People have to make the right choices for their lives. And the last thing that I think any of us want, is for people who have no desire to have children, to try and become parents. We don’t need that. We want people who want to do the job and are really passionate about molding human beings, and if that’s not what your passion is, by all means, don’t do it.”
On the meaning of the book’s title:
“Please don’t sit on my bed in your outside clothes,” is truly something my parents live by. They clean their house top to bottom once a week, I’m talking sweeping, mopping, cleaning the baseboards, dusting, rearranging the furniture, all that stuff,” said Robinson. “They were just like, ‘The outside world is funky, and triflin’, and dirty, and when you come into this home, we don’t want that filth in there, and so yeah, don’t sit on the bed, don’t sit on the couch until you change your clothes…’ I realized that was a life lesson from my parents that really stuck with me.”
Please Don’t Sit On My Bed In Your Outside Clothes comes out on September 28th, but eager readers can participate in a virtual online book launch on September 27th through independent bookstore partners in Brooklyn, Washington, D.C., and Tulsa. More information and tickets for the virtual book launch are available at www.phoeberobinson.com/please-dont-sit.