While heavy metal is a true global movement and scene, the racial and ethnic diversity is much greater among fans than among the artist themselves. Of course, our beloved genre tends to unite people of all backgrounds but reality and life are not necessarily that simple. Metalhead and author Laina Dawes poignantly writes about the experience of being a double minority (female and black) within a scene that is more or less occupied by predominantly white males.
No, this isn’t a book about how evil “the white man” is or some plea for sympathy. Dawes provides an honest account of her personal life experiences as a metalhead growing up in a predominantly white city in Canada. But she goes further than just speaking about herself. In addition to interviewing people in the scene, she superbly analyzes social norms, gender roles, cultural and national history, music history, and multiple layers of perceptions and misperceptions of race and between different races. Dawes intense research and analysis of race and gender in metal are not just thought provoking but extremely thorough and complete.
What are You Doing Here? is as much a story of rebellion as it is about self-discovery and finding one’s place in the complexity of society. Metal fans across all demographics will find much to relate to in this book and will come to learn a great deal about themselves as well as their fellow metal fans. Going a step further, What are You Doing Here? is a book that could easily be course material for a university course on race and gender. And don’t mistake it for being a self-absorbed piece of academia either. Dawes is compelling, thoughtful, and honest.
The book is bigger than the genre of metal itself. It’s a brilliant work covering a slice of life. (Bazillion Points)