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A new book described as "part history, part cultural commentary, part memoir" by a St. Lawrence alumna and trustee explores the role that redheads have held in society.

The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning and Power of Red Hair, by Marion Roach '77, was published by Bloomsbury USA July 7. According to the publisher, "A redhead rarely goes unnoticed in a crowded room. From Judas Iscariot to Botticelli’s Venus to Julianne Moore, 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, Roach takes a fascinating look at the science behind hair color and the roles redheads have played over time."

Among the tidbits revealed: in Greek mythology, redheads become vampires after they die; Hitler banned intermarriage with redheads for fear of producing “deviant offspring”; women with red hair were burned as witches during the Inquisition; in Hollywood, female redheads are considered sexy while male redheads are considered a hard sell; and in the 19th century, it was popular belief that redheads were the strongest-scented of all women, smelling of amber and violets.

Roach is also the author of Another Name for Madness, a memoir of her family’s struggle with her mother’s Alzheimer’s disease and the co-author of Dead Reckoning: The New Science of Catching Killers. A commentator on National Public Radio’s "All Things Considered," she has been published in the New York Times Magazine, Prevention, Vogue, Newsday, Good Housekeeping, Discover and American Health. Roach's St. Lawrence degree is in government; she studied in Kenya through the University's program there. Roach also teaches a memoir course at the Arts Center of the Capital Region.

Posted: July 6, 2005

 


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