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. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary.