A woman recounts her adventures experimenting with wigs as she wrestled with her own identity.
In this debut memoir, Harshman writes candidly and humorously of her rather unusual attempt to reinvent herself. As she recovered from depression and bipolar disorder, she impulsively decided to buy a red wig, and she was heartened by all the attention she received when she wore it. Out of curiosity and a desire for a new sense of purpose, she began to try on different colored wigs and compare the reactions she received. Each new wig brought on a new personality, complete with an exotic name (such as “Kali Amsterdam” or “Nada Jolie”). Thanks to a Craigslist ad, Harshman gained a sidekick, Bonnie, nicknamed “Agent Thorn,” who helped her keep records and steer clear of trouble. The two women had some entertaining high jinks as they navigated different parts of New York, but the heart of the story is Harshman’s continuing search for self. She writes that she realized that she’d lost her way and had fallen out of love with her longtime boyfriend, and the wig experiment aided her process of remaking herself. The author’s idea is a highly entertaining one, and her final revelation is predictable but still meaningful. The story does start to get repetitive after a while, though; for example, there are a few too many scenes in which Harshman states lines such as, “I feel irreparably defective since I’m not getting attention.” This point will be clear to readers from the outset and didn’t need to be reiterated so often. The memoir nicely includes some photos of Harshman in the different wigs, but color images would have been better; after all, the wigs’ colors seem to have made all the difference (the Kindle edition of the book contains color images). In the end, however, what makes the strongest impression isn’t the author’s hair color but her candor and bravery in confronting her mental illness.
A quirky, clever memoir.