A woman explores how her hair has shaped her identity in this memoir.
Eason (Man for Hire, 2015, etc.) is ordinarily a romance novelist, but in this book, she tells of her longtime affinity for the romance of beautiful, billowing hair. For many women, the concept of beauty is inextricably bound up with the idea of long, luxurious locks. The African-American author grew up with her mother, two older half sisters, and grandmother in 1980s Detroit. As a young girl, she had a head of “kinky” hair that simply would not fall at a vertical angle, and she became obsessed with the idea of “good” hair, which she found difficult to define. Painful braiding and at-home hair-relaxing kits, which burned her scalp and caused strands of her hair to break off, plagued her adolescence. As Eason’s hair-care methods became more sophisticated, her search for the perfect style—the “hairstyle that expressed who I was in that moment”—carried into her adult life, through different careers and boyfriends, from her time serving in the military overseas to her fresh start pursuing an acting career in New York City. But eventually, Eason was forced to ask herself, “Why?” When the communal pursuit of perfect hair started to affect the physical and emotional health of herself and those around her, Eason had to come to terms with her preoccupation. The first half of this book, covering the author’s childhood and early teenage years, brilliantly and colorfully combines her life story with her relationship to her hair, examining the intricacies and cultural context of the latter while never sacrificing the exciting storytelling elements of the former. Readers get to know the vile young boys at her elementary school, the heartbreaking and infuriating personality quirks of her mother and grandmother, and the distinct personalities of her sisters. As the memoir progresses into Eason’s adulthood, however, it loses this breadth of characters. Nonetheless, Eason’s prose remains impeccable and charming—quaint and quick but never wandering into whimsical territory—and this refreshing voice carries the book to its conclusion with momentum.
An often engaging and intimate remembrance.