Wannabe: Reckonings with the Pop Culture That Shapes Me

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In nine lively, incisive essays, NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour co-host Aisha Harris reflects on the cultural touchstones of her childhood and adolescence that have shaped her, setting them in context with current sensations transforming culture now.

NPR listeners trust Aisha Harris for her engaging and incisive insights on popular culture and the music, television, movies, and more that are influencing our lives today. In this insightful collection, she uses her keen analytical skills to examine her own life and the culture that defined who she is and how she thinks. In essays that span the personal and political, the high-brow and low, she explores how elements of popular culture became the formative touchstones of her youth in the 1990s.

Aisha probes the most personal aspects of her life, including her family, her adolescence, her relationships, and her work. In the opening essay, an interaction with Chance the Rapper prompts an investigation into the origin myth of her name that becomes an ode to Stevie Wonder, Roots, and her parents. In another, she takes us back to the days of the Spice Girls and being pressured by friends to dress up as Scary Spice even though she preferred Ginger—and how perfectly that feeling is captured in an episode of the award-winning series Pen15 streaming on Hulu. She traces the evolution of the “Black Friend” trope from its Twainian origins through Clueless and She’s All That to New Girl and the recent Sex and The City reboot. She also zooms way out into the overlap of taste and identity today, arguing for us to let go of the patriarchal ethos of selfhood that limits us to “you are what you like.”

Wannabe is a peak into Aisha’s brilliant mind and caring heart, an opportunity and a pleasure to sit back and jam with a smart, hilarious, pop-culture obsessed friend who opens new worlds with each entertaining and thought-provoking observation.