Wannabe: Reckonings with the Pop Culture That Shapes Me (Hardcover)
BEST READS OF 2023: New York Times Book Review • USA Today • The Skimm • Bookpage • St Louis Post-Dispatch / BEST HOLIDAY GIFTS 2023: Publishers Weekly / MOST ANTICIPATED READS OF 2023: ELLE • The Millions • Essence
“Aisha Harris is one of our smartest, most entertaining modern cultural critics (…) which might as well be parlance for, “Read me immediately.”—ELLE
Aisha Harris has made a name for herself as someone you can turn to for a razor-sharp take on whatever show or movie everyone is talking about. Now, she turns her talents inward, mining the benchmarks of her nineties childhood and beyond to analyze the tropes that are shaping all of us, and our ability to shape them right back.
In the opening essay, an interaction with Chance the Rapper prompts an investigation into the origin myth of her name. Elsewhere, Aisha traces the evolution of the “Black Friend” trope from its Twainian origins through to the heyday of the Spice Girls, teen comedies like Clueless, and sitcoms of the New Girl variety. And she examines the overlap of taste and identity in this era, rejecting the patriarchal ethos that you are what you like. Whatever the subject, sitting down with her book feels like hanging out with your smart, hilarious, pop culture–obsessed friend—and it’s a delight.
Aisha Harris is a cohost and reporter for the hit NPR podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. She previously held editorial positions at Slate and the New York Times. Aisha earned her bachelor’s degree in theatre from Northwestern University and her master’s degree in cinema studies from NYU.
“[E]nlisting movies and TV to explain the world is Harris’s expertise, arriving at ‘inadvertent self-formation by way of popular culture.’ For readers already inclined to read culture to understand themselves, WANNABE is a compelling affirmation that they’re looking in the right place.” — New York Times Book Review
“Aisha Harris is one of our smartest, most entertaining modern cultural critics. The nine pieces offer insight on Stevie Wonder, the Spice Girls, Pen15, and New Girl—among many other pop artifacts, of course—which might as well be parlance for, ‘Read me immediately.’” — ELLE, A Most Anticipated Book of 2023
“Refreshing . . . an astute observer of the artist/audience relationship . . . insightful perspectives in animated prose that affirm Harris’s status as a first-rate cultural critic. As incisive as they are entertaining, these essays are a treat.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“…lively essays… this collection offers a thoughtful and incisive discussion on how pop culture, whether intentional or not, influences the way we move in the world….vibrant, well-researched view on how current pop culture both reflects and informs our society.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Come for the hot takes but stay for the thoughtful analysis that will stick with you long after the last word.”
— ELLE - Best New Books to Read in Summer 2023” round up
“Aisha Harris is the pop culture maven millennials have been waiting for. In this collection of essays, Harris brings a refined, journalistic scrutiny to subjective nostalgia, which makes Wannabe a truly magical summer read.” — BookPage, Top Summer Reading Collection
“Like many of us, Aisha's brain has been molded, sculpted, broken, busted, and reconfigured by pop culture. But what distinguishes her, and what makes Wannabe such a joy to read, is that she exists in the intersection of critic's critic and Black girl's Black girl--deconstructing what, how, and why we consume in concert with her progressive recognition that she never quite needed to find herself because she was always there. It's like if Nola Darling, Rob Gordon, and Nora Ephron had an atheist baby." — DAMON YOUNG, award-winning author of What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir In Essays
“Harris teases out the connections between her identity and her love of pop culture with wit and elan.” — THE MILLIONS, A Most Anticipated Book of 2023
“Harris, an astute observer of the artist-audience relationship, hosts NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, and her refreshing debut essay collection weighs in on the music, movies, and TV shows that have had an impact on her life. She explores the racist pushback against the casting of a Black actor as the lead in The Little Mermaid and the lack of narrative closure promoted by Hollywood’s endless parade of reboots, remakes, and prequels, serving up insightful perspectives in animated prose.”
— Publishers Weekly, Holiday Gift Guide of 2023
"If you’re looking for engaging nonfiction for your next trip or just love all things pop culture, add to cart ASAP." — The Skimm
"An incredible journey through pop culture’s enduring and indelible impact. In Wannabe, Aisha Harris unpacks the (sometimes better, often worse) ways that pop culture has shaped her own life, charting a course for the rest of us along the way. Harris’s essays are brilliant, incisive, heartbreaking, and completely unforgettable. This is one of those rare books you’ll pick up and not be able to put down -- it blew me away." — SUSAN RIGETTI, author of Whistleblower and Cover Story: A Novel
"[Wannabe] probes a number of timely questions about our relationship with culture in the public dialogue, in an era when our preferences are an extension of ourselves -- a prescient analysis at a most essential time." — SHAMIRA IBRAHIM, culture writer and essayist