Book World: Phoebe Robinson’s new essay collection is a sharp,…

Tiny Reparations Books. 352 pp. $27

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Phoebe Robinson’s “Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes” is everything, in both the “Girl, that outfit is everything!” sense and also in the fact that the free-flowing essay collection fits seamlessly into so many categories: earnest pandemic memoir, no-nonsense business guide, lovingly profane commentary on relationships, sex and race and unabashed celebration of Black culture, particularly Black women.

Robinson, an author (“You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain”), podcast host (“2 Dope Queens”), actress (“What Men Want”), stand-up comedian and producer, covers much ground, some light and comedic, some painfully frank, and all with the same warm intimacy.

“I am a funny person, and if I can make you laugh and forget your problems for a moment, then I did something,” Robinson writes in the introduction, wryly titled “2020 Was Gonna Be My Year! (LOL).”

Even the book’s occasional rambling feels relatable – 2020, as she notes, was reality-shaking and chaotic, so it’s appropriate. Robinson’s work effortlessly, reassuringly speaks into that chaos, hugging the reader while also shaking them gently, insisting they pull themselves together.

The introduction sets the tone, explaining that our first annus horribilis, now widely considered a universal dumpster fire, was actually astrologically predicted to be stellar, so the subsequent cosmic punch in the face made “the coronavirus [seem] like such a deeply personal attack.”

Her response to that affront is to create a fictional “2020 Was My Year” Award and acceptance speech, in which she thanks fellow nominees, including “Reset Passwords Because I Forgot the Old Ones,” “My Determination to Eat Cheese in Public Despite Being Lactose Intolerant” and “Meryl Streep (because when is she not nominated?).”

Then, just a few pages later, she’s plaintively acknowledging the compulsion to move on too quickly from trauma. “Beginning again can feel like yet another tiny death of who you are and what you knew,” she explains. “Perhaps by us spending so much time trying to forget [our] fragility, we are also forgetting that it’s what makes . . . us so special and worth living for.”

The book, which takes its name from a traditional Black parent’s admonishment to not sully pristine spaces with dirt, is a sharp, sweet-salty pleasure. It’s spun with many hashtags, myriad nods to her favorite band, U2, liberal use of the word “heaux” and pop-culture references. Robinson’s breakneck name checks include Betty Draper of “Mad Men,” Tiger Woods, Charlie Sheen and Peter Pan.

These references, particularly those to millennial or Black culture, are made without overexplanation that would dilute their power or slow down the rhythm. One of the best compares the trend of White people claiming to not know anyone racist despite copious evidence of systemic racism in America to the fact that the much-maligned Canadian band Nickelback “has sold more than 50 MILLION ALBUMS, but nobody owns a copy? . . . Somebody’s out here ‘racist-ing.’ ”

The rest of the book follows that sad/funny template as she considers the expectations of modern womanhood and Blackness. One of the most striking sections follows Robinson’s path to deciding not to have children (“Motherhood: How I Went From ‘I Wanna Be a Momma’ to ‘That’s Gonna Be a “No” From Me, Dawg’ “). Robinson must make peace with the curated perfection of other people’s Facebook family photos; she has to stop apologizing for finding happiness elsewhere while rejecting the notion that resistance to parenthood means resisting adulthood.

“I know the Peter Pan reference is meant to be taken as a slight, but Peter Pan is dope,” she writes. “He can fly, he encourages people to be adventurous and his tights never have a run in them, unlike mine.”

Elsewhere, Robinson details her efforts to form her own company, with a series of tips for would-be bosses titled “What Warren Buffett Should’ve Told Ya,” including accepting criticism from employees. “What? You’re infallible?” she writes. “Ya ain’t Black Jesus, walking on water or turning water into wine. At best, you’re turning water into Crystal Light, which no one asked for.”

“Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes” is both of the moment, with references to the exhaustion of performative allyship following the 2020 murder of George Floyd and to Netflix’s “Emily in Paris,” and a timeless entreaty to own one’s power, no matter what that looks like to anyone else.

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Leslie Gray Streeter is a journalist and the author of “Black Widow: A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books With Words Like ‘Journey’ in the Title.”