Book 23: Me, My Hair, and I – Edited by Elizabeth Benedict

This books is a series of 27 essays from women addressing their hair; their stories are of course quite varied. I truly enjoyed each one, and it was a quick and easy read.

I mentioned wanting this book in my post about book reviews to look forward to, and i can’t honestly say that I have been looking forward to it for quite a while! With life happening and personal problems popping up, I didn’t get around to it quite as soon as I’d have liked, but here we are!

I picked this book up because I was interested in hearing women discuss their hair in a setting that allowed them to expound on the matter. I’ve always heard the old saying that women want the opposite of the hair type that they have, and until recently I was one of those people. I would have had pin straight hair since sixth grade if I had the patience to style my hair that religiously; spoiler alert, I don’t. I’ve started to really embrace my curly hair in the past year, learning how better to care for it and keep it healthy, and I’m happier because of it. Having had a twisted relationship with my own hair, I was excited to see what these women had to say.

I really appreciated Marita Golden’s essay My Black Hair on the experience she had with her hair as a black woman. It was rich and well cited as well as entertaining. I truly wish that there were more stories from black women in the text, as I only remember a handful. Other cultures were well represented as well, which was a definite plus.

I was also extremely interested in Anne Lamott’s essay; I’ve been a fan of hers since high school, long before I was socially aware enough to have an issue with white people wearing dreads. I’d read something that stated she had chosen to dread her hair so that she’d have more time to dedicate to her relationship with God; that wasn’t quite right and I did appreciate her honesty in the essay, though I had SEVERAL problems with it. The title of the essay immediately draws on the concept of sisterhood (“Sister”) and that’s a little cringe-worthy coming from a white woman’s… and going forward, Lamott is unfortunately quite a bit too kumbaya in this essay for my liking; she didn’t dread her hair specifically for religious or cultural reasons, though she did do so after knowing that it was cultural appropriation. Basically, she dreaded her hair because she hated her hair texture and was sick of dealing with it. Her neighbor and her neighbor’s daughter dreaded it, they both being black women with dreads who encouraged her in the first place. That’s a grey area that I, as a white woman, have no business discussing. I can certainly say that I wouldn’t feel comfortable making the choice to dread my hair regardless for reasons of white privilege among others.

A few things to expect; multiple references to the story of Samson in the bible, information on hair (and pubic hair) religious rituals and cultural rituals, and several informational essays that still incorporate the personal. Many of these essays were written by older women, so expect many time periods to be represented, as well as the topic of greeting. Also expect stories of illness and hair loss, be warned if the topic of cancer sets you on edge or if you’ve lost someone to cancer.

My only downside to this book would be that after a while some of the stories have a myriad of similarities that can make sitting down and reading most of the text in one sitting just a slight bit tedious. However, the vast differences between most of the essays definitely make up for that.

I give this book a 9/10.

Me, My Hair, and I: Twenty-seven Women Untangle an Obsession

Happy reading,
Scarlett

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