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WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal, by Laina Dawes

$16.95 $9.95

“Essential reading for those who have never felt the blow of intolerance, and for those who have felt it far too often…its themes are universal”—PopMatters

“A fantastic book”—AOL Noisecreep

“Thoughtful and inspiring”—Publishers Weekly

Eight Must-Read Heavy Metal Books, Phoenix Sun-Times

ISBN 978-1-935950-05-9
Foreword by Skin of Skunk Anansie
208pp softcover w/color flaps
Dimensions: 6″ x 9″ (152mm x 230mm); 1 lb. (.45 kg)
eBook: Kindle | Nook | iTunes Books | Kobo

What Are You Doing Here? investigates how black women musicians and fans navigate the metal, hardcore, and punk music genres that are regularly thought of as inclusive spaces and centered on a community spirit, but fail to block out the race and gender issues that exist in the outside world.

“The first time I heard rock music it was really exciting. I felt that this new music and vibe was really me. I remember going to bed and having dreams that I was performing this music and visualizing myself on stage, way before it actually happened… What always appealed to me about rock music is the feeling of freedom, that I could finally be who I wanted to be and sing the music that I felt in my heart. Some black people that I met in the music industry felt that we could be stronger and better empowered if we all stayed within in the same box, but I had always relished the fact that I never belonged to any cliques, or any scenes…”—Skin, Skunk Anansie

“I wanted to find other black women like me: metal, hardcore, and punk fans and musicians that were rabid about the music and culture and adamant about asserting their rightful place as black women within those scenes. I wanted to find other women who put aside the cultural baggage that dictates that we must listen to certain musical styles, and simply enjoy the music that influenced us, not just as black women, but as individuals who grew up in an era when, thanks to technology, a large variety of music is accessible and available to everyone. I found many black women and have shared their stories, but I also realize there is still a lot of work to be done.”—Laina Dawes


“Who Put That Shaven-Headed Black Woman on the Stage?” Foreword by Skin

Introduction, by Laina Dawes

I. Canadian Steel

II. Metal Can Save Your Life (or at Least Your Sanity)

III. I’m Here Because We Started It!

IV. So You Think You’re White?

V. “The Only One” Syndrome

VI. Too Black, Too Metal, and All Woman

VII. The Lingering Stench of Racism in Metal

VIII. Remove the Barricades and Stagedive!


Appendix: “What Are You Doing Here?”—The Survey

Laina Dawes is a music and cultural critic and opinion writer, an active public speaker, and a contributor to CBC Radio. Also a current affairs columnist for and contributing editor for She lives in Toronto.

Check out What Are You Doing Here?: The Liberation Sessions, courtesy of Black Rock Coalition.

Additional Information

Weight 1 lbs

“In her debut book, music journalist and hardcore metal devotee Laina Dawes uncovers black women’s voices and stories of participation in punk and metal.”—Vice

“How exciting is this? The book tackles the good, the bad and the ugly sides of being a black woman in the metal and punk scenes.”—

“A fantastic book”—AOL Noisecreep

“Thoughtful and inspiring”—Publishers Weekly

“As journalist Laina Dawes has investigated in her 2012 book What Are You Doing Here?, women of colour have been especially marginalised by heavy metal’s hyper-masculine, white-dude culture.”—The Guardian

“Dawes uses her sociological smarts to remind us that metal isn’t just disenfranchised white dudes’ music… it’s a way for all of us on the outside to feel the power.”—Revolver [4/5 stars]


“Essential reading for those who have never felt the blow of intolerance, and for those who have felt it far too often…its themes are universal”—PopMatters

“As the title suggests, Dawes has a compellingly idiosyncratic tale to tell about cultural identity and personal passion…[her] understandable difficulty is precisely what makes her struggle interesting.”—The Atlantic

“Dawes has done the metal scene a great service…an important addition to every metal fan’s bookshelf”—

“Laina Dawes’ What Are You Doing Here? is a strikingly more powerful, penetrating, and passionate look at metal than the one written by the guy [Tony Iommi] who arguably invented the genre…brave, engaging, and unique”—The Onion A/V Club

“While the book is extensively researched and brings in a broad array of opinions from musicians, fans and academics, the most resonant moments can be found within Dawes’ own history.”—Spinner

“Insightful and provocative.”—NOW Toronto

“The book is half love letter to both black women who have paved the way and continue to pave the way, as well as the music that brought them there, and half unflinching real talk of the all unfortunate actualities of the casual to the not-so-casual racism that is embedded with the scene.”—Persephone Magazine

“This book needs to be mandatory reading for every new metal head.”—Metal Army America

“A wonderfully intimate memoir…critical insight abounds”—Philadelphia City Paper

“The women presented in What Are You Doing Here? are courageous, honest and without pretense—just like the best metal that ultimately unites them.”—Albert Mudrian, editor-in-chief, Decibel

“An intriguing reminder of how much we all want, need and deserve to belong to something that stimulates and validates us.”—Terrorizer

“Dawes tells an important story well and gives voice to the many black girls and women who are brave enough to let themselves be different.”—LEO Weekly

“She presents metal as a source of joy, an outlet for negative emotions, a physical release and catharsis. It is also an opportunity to embrace something that Dawes, and the women she interviews, love intensely, and therefore is also the narrative of the triumph of truth and happiness over the pressure of public perception.”—Toronto Standard

“Dawes brings a lot of experience, clear and concise writing and good journalism, and while she doesn’t have any long-term solutions for bridging these deep and unfortunate valleys—through no fault of her own—she has still introduced the first step, which is opening our eyes and starting a dialogue.”—SLUG

“Jimi Hendrix is a god of rock guitarists, Living Color’s Vernon Reid is considered the elder statesman of guitarship, and Laina Dawes is the cool-ass aunt of heavy metal.”—Racialicious


  1. :

    […] that threatens to make Dawes fell unwelcome when listening to the music that she loves. Her book, What Are You Doing Here?, has the force of a powerful, eloquent typhoon, seeking to create a space where people of colour, […]

  2. :

    […] Listen to the full NPR interview here and purchase and autographed copy of Laina‚Äôs book here. […]

  3. :

    I hug you, since you are clearly my Distant Twin. Turns out, there’s a lot of us, we’re just… widely scattered. 😀

  4. :

    […] metal music critic and photographer, Laina Dawes recently spoke to NPR this month about her new book, ‚ÄúWhat Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman‚Äôs Life and Liberation in heavy Metal‚Äù […]

  5. :

    […] a signed copy of What Are You Doing Here? directly from publisher Bazillion Points for just […]

  6. :

    It’s sad that whites feel that they “own” rock music. Particularly if you know for a fact that rock music came from black artist! Goree Carter, Willie Johnson, Chuck Berry, Ike Turner, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and many many more before whites ever knew how to play that way. But it’s typical of what whites do, I remember in the early 80’s when rap was the music that blacks and latinos listen too. White kids didn’t like it or understand it, and many of them talked of the day when rap music would die because none of the rappers played instruments. Well here we are in 2013 and what do you see? Little white kids in pickup trucks in the backwoods of the south blasting rap music! They even dress like their favorite rappers! So don’t ever feel that you are less than! Because you are more than! Peace

  7. :

    I heard your radio interview on last night and I was intrigued. Speaking as a light skinned black woman who grew up in an Afrocentric area but raised herself on a diet of Star Wars, Harry Potter and other Sfi/Fantasy genres it was refreshing to hear that black females do rock! I am definitely getting your book.

  8. :

    […] these genres with respect to racial and gender issues. Its a fascinating read, and available now via Bazillion Points. […]

  9. :

    […] Here: A Black Woman‚Äôs Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal, by Laina Dawes (Bazillion Points) ‚ÄúI wanted to find other black women like me: metal, hardcore, and punk fans and musicians that […]

  10. :

    […] Laina Dawes‚Äô book What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman‚Äôs Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal I found my curiosity about black metal fans both validated and rejected. Validated because the very […]

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    […] forthcoming What Are You Doing Here: A Black Woman‚Äôs Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal is such an exquisitely rendered, inspiring melange of memoir, cultural criticism, extreme music […]

  12. :

    I hope you spoke about the late great poly-strene of x ray specs in your blakc women in rock section although biracal she was still a woman of colour in a male white dominated field

  13. :

    …] Ian Christe from Bazillion Points, these buttons will come with every book order purchased from the Bazillion Points site. Go get yourself one! Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  14. :

    I’m glad you wrote this book. Even in big cities, I’ve gotten strange looks from clueless people. Yes, we’re out there; and no, we’re not going anywhere!

  15. :

    […] enjoyed being perceived as different in the rock and metal scene. In a foreword to upcoming book What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman‚Äôs Life And LIberation in Heavy Metal by Laina Dawes, Skin says: ‚ÄúWhat always appealed to me about rock music is the feeling of […]

  16. :

    Oh, and please do a book signing in California!! Underground Books or Barnes and Noble in Sacramento, CA!

  17. :

    Will for sure be my favorite read of the year.

  18. :

    I’m overjoyed that the story of us Metal Sistahs will finally be told! I hope that Laina does some readings/signings on the West Coast!

  19. :

    I don’t think I even looked forward to the publication of “Metalion” this much. Kudos to the BP crew for having the testicular fortitude to put this tome out!

  20. :

    I love the idea but where can I actually buy the book without having to get it online although i could

    • :

      Thanks for asking, Bishop ‚Äîwhen the book is released this fall, it will be available wherever books are sold. If your local bookstore doesn’t have a copy on the shelf, they can order one easily through their suppliers.

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