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Good Hair: A Novel Paperback – October 6, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (October 6, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684835576
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684835570
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #891,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Entering the terrain of the African American upper class previously explored by Dorothy West and Andrea Lee, Little makes a distinctive debut. She shows a discerning eye for class divisions among socially mobile blacks and an astute insight into the damaged psyches that can result. Her protagonist is a middle-class African American woman whose values are called into question when she meets the crown prince of Boston's black bourgeoisie. Mount Holyoke graduate Alice Lee, now a newspaper reporter living in Manhattan, somewhat reluctantly falls in love with Mt. Sinai surgeon Jack Russworm, "a Black Ward Cleaver, who made a million dollars a year and dressed in Armani." But Alice, who grew up middle-class in Newark, worries about Jack's carefully maintained distance from the experience of less fortunate African Americans. Jack is a blue blood. Like others in his old-money, old-school crowd, he practices an unthinking elitism and social cruelty. As the couple moves closer to marriage, insecure Alice must confront the fact that many of her values seem to have more to do with wish-fulfillment than reality. Little shows skill in creating complex, well rounded characters?most crucially, Jack, who, although snobbish, naive and concerned with appearances, is at heart a good man. More than subtle class differences threaten his and Alice's relationship, however; a sexual misadventure almost parts them for good. Bill Cosby's cuddly "Dr. Huxtable" made the BUPs (black urban professionals) standard household fare, although Cosby muffled the stresses by removing the sting. Little's characters have their stingers intact, and her candid assessment of several generations of blacks whose aspirations are mixed with frustration and shame, as well as her portrayal of the small, closed society that W.E.B. Du Bois called the Talented Tenth, make this a compelling read.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In her first novel, Little explores upper-class African American culture as she shows a woman struggling to be who she is while trying to fit an image of who she should be.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Benilde Little is the bestselling author of the novels Good Hair (selected as one of the ten best books of 1996 by the Los Angeles Times), The Itch, Acting Out, and Who Does She Think She Is? A former reporter for People and senior editor at Essence, she lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children.

(Biography from Simon & Schuster)

Visit Benilde Little's official website at benilde-little.com

Customer Reviews

This is a quick read which gives all of us something to think about.
Susan Bishop
I can't get a sense of Alice as a character because she is formed by thoughts only, not feelings.
Melissa
I have enjoyed both of Benilde Little's books and look forward to the next one.
Pamela L. Lee (plee@structure.com)

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Yasmin Coleman on December 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
On a cold, dreary winter day and anticipating nothing better than curling up with a good book I decided to give Benilde Little's debut novel Good Hair a chance. Mind you this book had been sitting on my bookshelf for almost a year and I wasn't overly enthused or anxious about reading it but there was just enough information on the book jacket to entice me regarding what I hoped would be a light, quick and entertaining read. Good Hair lived up to the challenge! I really enjoyed this book...and was pleasantly surprised. The story is told in first person from Alice, the protagonist, point of view. It's the story of a most unlikely romance between Alice a hard working, first generation college educated sista who falls for Jack the by-product of an upper middle class, privileged AA family and a third generation doctor. Along the way we really get to know Alifce and the story seems almost autobiographical in nature as we journey with Alice from her childhood through the present as she struggles with day-to-day encounters and tries to find herself in the midst of it all. The storyline was spiced with pointed insight regarding contemporary issues such as spousal abuse, incest/sexual abuse, suicide, homosexuality, betrayal, self-esteem as well as caste issues among AAs. Good Hair was grammatically well written and the storyline flowed, however, at times, it also felt like a casually plotted storyline with sketchy characters,sometimes stilted dialogue, and a multitude of loose end situations. I believe that the storyline had the potential to be even better if (1) greater character development was displayed beyond Alice's character; I especially would have liked to hear Jack's point of view vs. being told about him from primarily Alice's perspective; (2) stronger ending...Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
This was the first time that I have read a book by Ms. Little and it was excellent! She kept me reading and reading and I didn't want to put it down. This book describes the lives of many young women who find love when they least expect it. The only thing that left me hanging was the end. It left me wondering what happened after the marriage and whether or not Ms. Sherry was actually pregnant. But overall its a WONDERFUL novel. Keep up the good work Ms. Little.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
I really couldn't figure out the point of this book. Racism and social class within the African American culture, or a romance between the protagonist and Jack? I felt that in the first couple of chapters, too much emphasis on the "good hair" aspect of the novel was put forth and then it just spun off into this whirlwind romance thing. Despite my negative attitude towards the organization of the plot, I loved Little's writing style. The sarcasm and cynicism Alice displayed added flavor to the book. Miles was a great one too, I know many people who would fit into his very character. Yet I feel that Jack could have been a little more developed, having been one of the main characters. I will look forward to reading Little's new book, The Itch. It looks like this is one of many entertaining and thought-provoking novels to come.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Aside from the cheap shots taken at Rutgers (where I am a student), I really enjoyed the beginning of the book where the author introduced Alice's experiences growing up in Newark, NJ because this is the only well developed portion of the book. It allowed Alice to introduce herself to the reader, whereas the other characters were not as well developed. This could stem from the fact that Alice is telling the story in the first person. In other words, Alice doesn't allow the reader to learn more about the other characters in the book, i.e.- Jack, the other main character, because she doesn't really know them herself. It's as though her superficiality (Coach this, Ferragamo that) is evidenced in the book through her shallow examinations of the other characters. Readers witness them on a surface level only. However, this explanation in no way compensates for my disappointment with the character development. It's just an observation. Little's The Itch suffered the same problem.
I would have loved for Alice to relay some of the stories of Jack's childhood and young adulthood, the experiences in his life that made him who Alice fell in love with (that is, if she was really in love with him and not his status). He was represented as an oftentimes naive man, but there was only one instance of his naivete in this book (the cheating). I needed more proof since this was his mom's excuse for the cheating, for which Alice forgave him.
I would really love to see more novels written by a more seasoned Little that introduce and more deeply examine the lives (not just the twisted events, but the thoughts, feelings and ideas of these people in an authentic voice)of the black, upper-class. The Itch and Good Hair are the only books of this severely underrepresented genre.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kica on April 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I received this book as a present, after telling friends and family alike how much I wanted to read it. Not only did Benilde Little attend my alma mater, but I was hopeful that here would be a book to gladly expand the offerings in African American fiction. I hoped I would find an interesting and enjoyable read. Unfortunately, I did not.
Although Ms. Little does provide a few interesting insights into the black middle class, like "negro geography," that made me chuckle at the familiarity, I found little else of substance or interest in this book. The writing overall is fine, she even has glimpses of good writing including the opening page or two. It was the substance of the novel, though, that ultimately left me dissatisfied. The main character, Alice, is two-dimensional throughout. She never grows, never changes, never comes into more of herself. Instead, she just spends her time searching for another boring, emotionally unavailable man to be her mate. The relationship between Jack and Alice is never passionate, never the stuff of love, or even lust, as far as the reader knows. I wondered why in the world they were dating, much less considering marriage. Jack chose a woman unlike the women he was supposed to choose, and yet, I didn't understand why he made such a choice. Did he love her? I saw no evidence of that.
If I allow a writer to take me on a journey, I want to go somewhere, not just around the block and end up right back where we started. But, that's exactly what Good Hair felt like. Ms. Little didn't take me anywhere. She was sketchy with details and introduced information that she never did anything with. I was especially put off that there was no real conversation about Jack's infidelity, much less that he and Alice still got married.
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