CUTTIN' UP: Wit and Wisdom from Black Barber Shops

Craig Marberry, Author . Doubleday $24.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-385-51164-3

The author of Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats (a collaboration with photographer Michael Cunningham) shifts his focus from hats to hair with this celebration of the black barber shop, "one of the nation's earliest black businesses [and]... as much a think tank as it is a comedy showcase." Over the course of 18 months, Marberry traveled around the country to document that particular "barber shop atmosphere." In Detroit, a policeman waxes poetic about a good "Razor Line" haircut; in Nashville, Oprah Winfrey's barber father, Vernon, jokes: "Somebody asked me if Oprah is my only child. I said, 'The only one so far.' " Along with the cutting quips and clipping tips, each barber and patron offers a little slice of life; topics include black history, celebrity clients, raids on unlicensed barbers, robberies, murders and the attitudes of female barbers: "It's tough for a woman in a barber shop. They say it's the black man's country club." Sixty b&w photos show the faces behind the commentary, but only some locations are identified; shop names aren't supplied, and curiously, shop exteriors aren't shown. And though Marberry is a fine writer, he gives only four pages of his own words. (May 10)

Reviewed on: 03/14/2005
Release date: 05/01/2005
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