Name of Book: I Love My Hair
Author: Natasha Anastasia Tarpley
Illustrator: E.B. Lewis
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (paperback)
Audience: African American girls of all ages
Summary: I Love My Hair tells the story of how a young African American girl learns to love her hair and ultimately herself.
Literary Elements: This story can easily fall under two genres: contemporary realistic fiction and multicultural literature. The protagonist in this story could be any African American girl. Keyana’s story is ‘my story’. I know exactly how she feels because I was this girl. This book could also fall under multicultural literature in that it presents an aspect of a minority culture in a very positive image that can bolster the self-esteem of African American girls. The story also shows an aspect of a minority culture where the character show pride in their heritage as indicated when Keyana’s teacher tells her about a time when African American women wore their hair in Afros to show pride in their heritage (I’m Black and I’m proud). The setting could be any African American home in any city or town. The characters are realistic and believable; it is easy to identify with the hero in the story. The story is told in first person from the point of view of an African American girl whose hair is coarse and the “struggles” of wearing her hair natural (plaited, corn rows, braids, or Afro). Keyana decides to love her hair just the way it is. This self acceptance is crucial African American girls or girls of any race.
Perspective: The distinction is important because African American girls grow up hating their hair and can’t wait until they are old enough to get do what they want with their hair like getting it relaxed or ‘permed.’ The image African American girls see are not of girls with coarse or ‘nappy’ hair. African American girls grow up with dolls with long, straight, manageable and shiny hair. We see pictures in magazines and images of girls of other cultures with long, straight hair. These images, intentional or not, causes young girls to hate their hair and their identity.
Theological conversation partners: This story is about more than hair; it’s about a girl’s self-image and self-acceptance. Television and print media has caused many girls to view their physical appearance (like hair) negatively. The Bible, however, tells us that we are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26) and when God created humankind, God said, “…that is very good” (Gen 1:31). Psalms 139:14 declares that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I think the greatest thing we can do as parents, Sunday school teachers, and youth leaders is to teach children (girls and boys) to see themselves as God sees them. God sees them as God’s own, redeemed by the precious blood of God’s son, Jesus Christ, whom God sent to die for our sins (Romans 5:6 – 8); God loves them (John 3:16); we are adopted by God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:1-2). We are chosen in Christ and have been forgiven (Ephesians 1:3-8) and that desires fellowship with humanity through God son (1 John 1:3).
Faith Talk Questions:
- What part of Keyana’s story do you identify with?
- Ethel Waters once said, “I am somebody because God don’t make no junk.” In light of this story, what does this statement mean to you?
This review is written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Adelaide Barringer
I Love My Hair by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.