From Publishers Weekly
Whether it's hip-hop diva Lil' Kim's "weave of the week" or activist Angela Davis's Afro, black hair evinces the power to set trends and define icons. In this entertaining and concise survey, Byrd (a research chief for Vibe) and Tharps (a reporter for Entertainment Weekly) revel in the social, cultural and economic significance of African-American hair from 1400 to the present. The opening chapter chronicles the rise of the slave trade, revealing intriguing facts about the significance of hair in African cultureAsuch as that only royalty donned hats or hairpieces, and recently widowed Wolof women stopped maintaining their hair as a sign of their mourning. The authors contextualize issues familiar to African-Americans while explaining black hair culture to the uninformed, so readers who don't already know what "the kitchen" refers to (hair at the nape of the neck, usually the "nappiest") will soon find out. Photos and illustrations are put to effective use, though amusing charts such as "Five Famous Men with Equally Famous Hair" and the "Black Hair Glossary" are out of sync with the text. Meanwhile, significant figures, like Madame C.J. Walker and Nathaniel "The Bush Doctor" Mathis, are revisited in detail in various chapters, resulting in unnecessary repetition. But these are small quibbles with a book that successfully balances popular appeal with historical accuracy, adeptly exploring the roots of pervasive intraracial discrimination while explaining, for example, how the much-maligned Jheri Curl ever became a fad. Agent, Marie Brown. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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"[An] entertaining and concise survey . . . A book that successfully balances popular appeal with historical accuracy."—Publishers Weekly
"Taps into the art and history of how Black hair is perceived in America in a way that will no doubt be relevant for generations to come."—The Source
"Hair Story presents an absorbing rendition of American history told through Black hair. In prose that is both humorous and haunting, the authors manage to bring vividly to life a subject most would consider inconsequential. After reading this comprehensive tale, people will walk away with a whole new appreciation for Black hair and all of its wonder and power."—Lloyd Boston, author of Men of Color: Fashion, History, Fundamentals
"From antiquity to the present day, Black hair has been both ornamentation and a medium of artistic expression. At the same time, its changing political and cultural values have often mirrored the current social climate. Hair Story, in documenting our natural hair's beauty and capacity for communication, brings to life and infuses with historical relevance this unique slice of Americana."—Harriette Cole, author of Jumping the Broom and How to Be
"[This book combines] keen historical insight with pop-cultural anecdotes."—Entertainment Weekly
"A comprehensive and colorful look at a very touchy subject."—Essence