They tell me to “fix” my hair.
And by fix, they mean straighten, they mean whiten;
but how do you fix this shipwrecked
history of hair?
In her most famous spoken-word poem, author of the Pura Belpré-winning novel-in-verse The Poet X Elizabeth Acevedo embraces all the complexities of Black hair and Afro-Latinidad—the history, pain, pride, and powerful love of that inheritance.
Paired with full-color illustrations by artist Andrea Pippins in a format that will appeal to fans of Mahogany L. Browne’s Black Girl Magic or Jason Reynolds’s For Everyone, this poem can now be read in a vibrant package, making it the ideal gift, treasure, or inspiration for readers of any age.
In spoken-word lines that explicate the tension between what people say and what they mean, Acevedo (Clap When You Land) confronts the cultural specter of hair-related prejudice through the lens of colonial history and Afro-Dominican identity. "Some people tell me to ‘fix' my hair. And by fix, they mean straighten; they mean whiten"—but, the poem's speaker intones, "how do you fix this shipwrecked history of hair?" Centering figures with brown skin of varying tones, Pippins's (Young Gifted and Black) bold-hued, unlined art portrays curls, coils, and elaborate road map cornrows, including a design with a ship at its center. A subsequent spread centers a salon offering blowouts and roller sets: "We're told Dominicans do the best hair. We can wash, set, flatten the spring in any lock." But the context behind those words, the lines indicate, aligns with colonial beauty standards: "What they mean is: Why would you date a Black man?" and "Have you thought about your daughter's hair?" Embracing the beauty of Afro-Latinidad hair exactly as it is, Acevedo affirms, "Our children will be beautiful... Oh, how I will braid pride down their backs, and from the moment they leave the womb, they will be born in love with themselves." Ages 13–up.