Tenderheaded: A Comb-Bending Collection of Hair Stories

Juliette Harris, Editor, Pamela Johnson, Editor Atria Books $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-671-04755-9
Ranging from the shaving of newborns to the coiffing of the dead, from the anecdotal to the scholarly, and from antebellum America to contemporary Africa, this remarkable array of writings and images illuminates black women's hair and its cultural meaning. Embracing all types of hair whether it's relaxed, worn in an Afro, has extensions woven in, is twisted into dreads or shaven off altogether the authors urge readers to respond to their own particular hair without judgment and to view it as an essential part of their personal space. They urge readers to be ""tenderheaded"" and complain when their scalp hurts, instead of stoically acting like a ""strongblackwoman."" While entries from famous authors such as Henry Louis Gates Jr., Lucille Clifton and Toni Morrison are often excerpted from previously published works, they gain new dimensions in this context. Yet it's the less well-known contributors who steal the show. Halima Taha, now a Muslim who covers her head, recalls being shunned as a teenager when she got her first Afro. Annabelle Baker explains how her undergraduate career at Hampton College in the 1940s was cut short the day she decided not to process her hair anymore. Yvonne Durant glorifies her grey hair, noting that it seems to have ""upped"" her I.Q. considerably ""at least that's how I'm treated."" Beyond the variety of contributors and the provocative quotes and historical tidbits sprinkled between the entries, it's the wealth of feeling rooted in hair that makes this volume so compelling. With its (s)nappy jacket and generous helpings of art and photos, this mini-encyclopedia should attract an avid audience. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/2001
Release date: 01/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-671-04756-6
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