In this “outstanding volume” (Boston Herald) that “ought to be at the top of everyone’s must-read list” (Essence), Black women and men evocatively explore what could make a smart woman ignore doctor’s orders; what could get a hardworking employee fired from her job; what could get a black woman in hot water with her white boyfriend? In a word: hair.
In a society where beauty standards can be difficult if not downright unobtainable for many Black women, the issue of hair is a major one. Now, in this evocative and fascinating collection of essays, poems, excerpts, and more, Tenderheaded speaks to the personal, political, and cultural meaning of Black hair.
From A’Leila Perry Bundles, the great-granddaughter of hair care pioneer Madam C.J. Walker celebrating her ancestor’s legacy, to an art historian exploring the moving ways in which Black hair has been used to express Yoruba spirituality, to renowned activist Angela Davis questioning how her message of revolution got reduced to a hairstyle, Tenderheaded is as rich and diverse as the children of the African diaspora.
With works from authors including Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, bell hooks, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and more, this “remarkable array of writings and images” (Publishers Weekly) will stay with you long after you turn the final page.
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.