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New Book Details Author’s Experience as a Black Woman in the Metal Community

'What Are You Doing Here?'
Bazillion Points

Although there is no inherent discrimination within the metal community, it’s plain to see at any concert that most metalheads happen to be white males. While music genres can become polarizing, the central focus should always be the music itself, as author and black female Laina Dawes set out to argue in her new book, ‘What Are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal.’

Dawes found herself connected to metal music, especially that of Judas Priest, at a very young age, but due to her gender and race, the youthful Canadian metalhead found it difficult to integrate herself into the scene. “Being 11 or 12 years old, I really resonated with the sound of anger and my internal struggles or what I was going through,” Dawes explains to NPR. “I found that listening to the music in my bedroom, being able to feel like you could scream and yell and really express your anger, that really helped me out when I was a kid.”

Despite Dawes finding personal salvation within metal as an individual, she faced some unnerving backlash within social circles. “There was a boy who went to another high school,” begins Dawes. “He was really into metal, and we would talk on the phone, and I remember that he said that he wanted to meet me at a shopping mall on the weekend. And he said, ‘Well, what do you look like?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’m black and this and this…’ and he hung up the phone. I never heard from him again. [I also remember] my black female friends in high school and their parents wondering why I was wearing a Def Leppard T-shirt or whatever, and really kind of questioning me on my cultural legitimacy as a black person. All of those together made me really understand at a pretty young age that, as a black woman, I’m not supposed to be doing this, and there’s something wrong with me because I enjoy this music.”

Despite the barriers Dawes faced, metal has remained the soundtrack of her life. The foreward to Dawes’ book was penned by renowned black female rocker Skin of the British rock group Skunk Anansie.

‘What Are You Doing Here?’ is available for purchase at Bazillion Points Books and various online outlets.

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