SOCIAL SCIENCES

Twisted: The Tangled History of Black Hair Culture

Harper Perennial. Jun. 2020. 272p. ISBN 9780062966728. pap. $16.99. SOC SCI
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In this engaging and enlightening work, journalist and academic researcher Dabiri introduces readers to the rich, complex cultures and politics of black hair in locations around the world. Nigerian-Irish Dabiri grew up at a time when black people in Ireland were few and far between, and both Dabiri and her hair attracted a lot of attention. Dabiri, a contributor and commentator for the Guardian and the BBC, draws on personal experience and her research background to explain hair as an expression of culture and spirituality in many African and African-diasporic cultures. She interrogates Western notions of history and respectability while delving into African ways of engaging with the past, present, and future through oral and visual storytelling, including the embodied language of hairstyles. Dabiri discusses the history of black women chemically straightening their hair, the popularity of the natural hair movement, social and political stereotypes of black hairstyles, hairstyling as social time, and gendered expectations for black women’s hair. Notably, she also discusses the commercialism, consumerism, representation, colonialism, and liberation of black hair, all while incorporating reflections on her own experiences.
VERDICT Highly recommended for all readers, especially given recent headlines about discrimination against black hairstyles and movements to decriminalize black hair.

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