Books on Black Women’s Hair by Detroit Authors

THANK GOD I’M NATURAL

Chris-Tia Donaldson, a Detroit native currently living in Chicago and author of Thank God I'm Natural: The Ultimate Guide to Caring For and Maintaining Natural Hair (TgiNesis Press, $19.99), is a lawyer for a software company. She is also a freelance writer and entrepreneur.

What is the most important message of your book?

The most important message in my book is letting women know that they are beautiful just the way they are, and that going natural, is a healthy alternative to chemical relaxers that gives them the same versatility when it comes to hairstyle choices.

Why did you decide to write it?

I decided to write the book when I was almost fired from my first law firm after wearing a wig for over two years due to my obsession with "good hair." I found that trying to wear my hair in a style that appeased my White clients and colleagues ended up taking a major toll on my self-esteem. After coming to grips with the fact that my hair was kinky, I wanted to let Black women know that you don’t have to have a silky hair texture like Mariah Carey or Alicia Keys to go natural. I also wanted to dispel the myth that going natural will jeopardize your career path, endanger your relationship with your significant other or would require that you join some kind of [political] movement.

What is unique about African-American Detroit women’s hair?

I love Detroit and think the woman who live there always stay looking good. I just wish more Detroiters were open to the idea of going natural, because if we know anything, it’s hair, and we would give other cities like the ATL and New York a run for the money when it came to styles and maintenance.

What message do you have for African Americans about hair in general?

Love the hair you were born with.

What was your best and worst hair experience?

Best: Hearing my 60-something-year-old dad tell me he liked my hair, finally, and that he wished more of his female friends would go natural. Worst: I was hosting a holiday party at my condo and the bangs on my wig melted when I went to retrieve some appetizers from the oven. My whole apartment smelled like burnt synthetic hair.

LOCS FOR LIFE

Kalimah Johnson, a Marygrove College social work professor and author of Locs for Life: The Root to Well Being for African-American Women (AuthorHouse, $8.30), is also a poet and self-described "loc mama." She owns the PicNap Natural Hair Care Salon.

What is the most important message of your book?

I want African-American women to embrace their natural hair. I also think the message of the book is to let people know that they can wear their natural hair out in the world and it [can] be beautiful. The message of the book is to love yourself and what has been bestowed upon you.

Why did you decide to write it?

There are a lot of other natural hair care books out, but what I think I did different was talk about the emotional and spiritual connection of hair locking. There was no book talking about our hair from a holistic standpoint.

What is unique about African-American Detroit women’s hair?

We as African Americans are very creative and artistic in our expression of our hair. Black women in particular are trying to navigate their lives and sometimes we feel better with a wig, sometimes we feel better with a weave. I definitely think that Detroit is the weave capital of the world. We have more African-American women in Detroit wearing weave than any place that I’ve ever been. Black women do whatever they feel is necessary to navigate the world they live in and sometimes that means wearing a straight weave or chemicals. I wish more African-American women would wear their hair natural, but I just accept them as they are.

If you are doing something to your hair because you think God made a mistake, then that’s where the work begins. Our Creator gave us exactly what we should have and if we start there then maybe we can begin to heal other parts of our lives.

What was your best and worst hair experience?

I am living in my best hair experience now because my hair is locked. My worst was when I was 11. My mother wouldn’t let us get perms or chemicals and she very rarely let us get it pressed. I was at a girlfriend’s house wearing an afro and an older gentleman came into the kitchen and told me no man was going to be with me with my hair looking like that. He poured [pellets from a rifle bullet] in my afro. My friend had to comb them out and the comb broke and the pellets were hitting the wall. He just started laughing at me and it hurt me so bad that I waited for my grandfather to give me some allowance money and I bought a perm. The same friend who tried to comb the pellets out put the perm in and I went home and my mother cried. She was so upset that I did that on my own and I was so upset that I hurt her.

OTHER PEOPLE’S SKIN

Written by Tracy Price-Thompson, TaRessa Stovall, Elizabeth Atkins and Desiree Cooper (Atria Books, $14), this compilation of four novellas explores the complicated issues of skin tone and hair texture among the African-American community. Former Detroit Free Press columnist Desiree Cooper, one of the co-authors (two of whom are Detroiters), spoke to B.L.A.C. about the book.

What is the most important message of your book?

I think the most important message is for Black women to really stop and think about how we have allowed stereotypes over skin color within our community and hair texture to divide us. Quite often many of us think we’re enlightened, but we walk around with these deeply held prejudices that we place on each other and our daughters. Our hope in writing the book was to help Black women explore experiences around hair and skin color and learn to transcend [them].

Why did you decide to write it?

Our hope is that in the four stories, most women can see something of their own experiences or their own beliefs and in that process, really start to question how they were raised, or things they’ve heard their wholes lives, or how they feel about themselves and talk about it.

What is unique about African-American Detroit women’s hair?

I’ve traveled a fair bit and in Detroit you do see a lot of women wearing their hair naturally. I think in a lot of other cities you may not see that, but at the same time I think you might see more who are very invested in the weekly trips to the beauty shop, who wear their hair unnaturally with weaves, straightened hair, permed hair and pressed hair. When you think about how big that industry is, it’s quite an economy and it’s quite an investment. We hope that in Detroit especially, there’s an opportunity for us to invest in ourselves as natural, beautiful women.

What message do you have for African Americans about hair in general?

In general, and this is not just for African Americans, but for everyone: hair is hair. It’s a biological fact. You don’t see people going around judging people for the most part: "Oh, your hands look rough." Hands are hands. They are a utility. Hair really doesn’t have any kind of value except the value that we put on it.

What was your best and worst hair experience?

My best and worst hair experience happens to be the same experience. It was my decision five years ago to wear my hair in dreadlocks. It was awful that it took me almost until mid-life to understand my own beauty with my natural hair. People very close to me, especially family members, were angry-even offended. Many even felt I was "ruining" my hair, or being militant.

It has turned out to be the best decision of my life. I no longer worry about keeping my hair straight. I have started to exercise regularly and enjoy the weather. I no longer have bad hair days! I am healthier and happier. Women come up to me all the time to admire my hair. It makes me proud to be a Black woman.


THANK GOD I’M NATURAL

Chris-Tia Donaldson, a Detroit native currently living in Chicago and author of Thank God I’m Natural: The Ultimate Guide to Caring For and Maintaining Natural Hair (TgiNesis Press, $19.99), is a lawyer for a software company. She is also a freelance writer and entrepreneur.

What is the most important message of your book?

The most important message in my book is letting women know that they are beautiful just the way they are, and that going natural, is a healthy alternative to chemical relaxers that gives them the same versatility when it comes to hairstyle choices.

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Why did you decide to write it?

I decided to write the book when I was almost fired from my first law firm after wearing a wig for over two years due to my obsession with “good hair.” I found that trying to wear my hair in a style that appeased my White clients and colleagues ended up taking a major toll on my self-esteem. After coming to grips with the fact that my hair was kinky, I wanted to let Black women know that you don’t have to have a silky hair texture like Mariah Carey or Alicia Keys to go natural. I also wanted to dispel the myth that going natural will jeopardize your career path, endanger your relationship with your significant other or would require that you join some kind of [political] movement.

What is unique about African-American Detroit women’s hair?

I love Detroit and think the woman who live there always stay looking good. I just wish more Detroiters were open to the idea of going natural, because if we know anything, it’s hair, and we would give other cities like the ATL and New York a run for the money when it came to styles and maintenance.

What message do you have for African Americans about hair in general?

Love the hair you were born with.

What was your best and worst hair experience?

Best: Hearing my 60-something-year-old dad tell me he liked my hair, finally, and that he wished more of his female friends would go natural. Worst: I was hosting a holiday party at my condo and the bangs on my wig melted when I went to retrieve some appetizers from the oven. My whole apartment smelled like burnt synthetic hair.

LOCS FOR LIFE

Kalimah Johnson, a Marygrove College social work professor and author of Locs for Life: The Root to Well Being for African-American Women (AuthorHouse, $8.30), is also a poet and self-described “loc mama.” She owns the PicNap Natural Hair Care Salon.

What is the most important message of your book?

I want African-American women to embrace their natural hair. I also think the message of the book is to let people know that they can wear their natural hair out in the world and it [can] be beautiful. The message of the book is to love yourself and what has been bestowed upon you.

Why did you decide to write it?

There are a lot of other natural hair care books out, but what I think I did different was talk about the emotional and spiritual connection of hair locking. There was no book talking about our hair from a holistic standpoint.

What is unique about African-American Detroit women’s hair?

We as African Americans are very creative and artistic in our expression of our hair. Black women in particular are trying to navigate their lives and sometimes we feel better with a wig, sometimes we feel better with a weave. I definitely think that Detroit is the weave capital of the world. We have more African-American women in Detroit wearing weave than any place that I’ve ever been. Black women do whatever they feel is necessary to navigate the world they live in and sometimes that means wearing a straight weave or chemicals. I wish more African-American women would wear their hair natural, but I just accept them as they are.

If you are doing something to your hair because you think God made a mistake, then that’s where the work begins. Our Creator gave us exactly what we should have and if we start there then maybe we can begin to heal other parts of our lives.

What was your best and worst hair experience?

I am living in my best hair experience now because my hair is locked. My worst was when I was 11. My mother wouldn’t let us get perms or chemicals and she very rarely let us get it pressed. I was at a girlfriend’s house wearing an afro and an older gentleman came into the kitchen and told me no man was going to be with me with my hair looking like that. He poured [pellets from a rifle bullet] in my afro. My friend had to comb them out and the comb broke and the pellets were hitting the wall. He just started laughing at me and it hurt me so bad that I waited for my grandfather to give me some allowance money and I bought a perm. The same friend who tried to comb the pellets out put the perm in and I went home and my mother cried. She was so upset that I did that on my own and I was so upset that I hurt her.

OTHER PEOPLE’S SKIN

Written by Tracy Price-Thompson, TaRessa Stovall, Elizabeth Atkins and Desiree Cooper (Atria Books, $14), this compilation of four novellas explores the complicated issues of skin tone and hair texture among the African-American community. Former Detroit Free Press columnist Desiree Cooper, one of the co-authors (two of whom are Detroiters), spoke to B.L.A.C. about the book.

What is the most important message of your book?

I think the most important message is for Black women to really stop and think about how we have allowed stereotypes over skin color within our community and hair texture to divide us. Quite often many of us think we’re enlightened, but we walk around with these deeply held prejudices that we place on each other and our daughters. Our hope in writing the book was to help Black women explore experiences around hair and skin color and learn to transcend [them].

Why did you decide to write it?

Our hope is that in the four stories, most women can see something of their own experiences or their own beliefs and in that process, really start to question how they were raised, or things they’ve heard their wholes lives, or how they feel about themselves and talk about it.

What is unique about African-American Detroit women’s hair?

I’ve traveled a fair bit and in Detroit you do see a lot of women wearing their hair naturally. I think in a lot of other cities you may not see that, but at the same time I think you might see more who are very invested in the weekly trips to the beauty shop, who wear their hair unnaturally with weaves, straightened hair, permed hair and pressed hair. When you think about how big that industry is, it’s quite an economy and it’s quite an investment. We hope that in Detroit especially, there’s an opportunity for us to invest in ourselves as natural, beautiful women.

What message do you have for African Americans about hair in general?

In general, and this is not just for African Americans, but for everyone: hair is hair. It’s a biological fact. You don’t see people going around judging people for the most part: “Oh, your hands look rough.” Hands are hands. They are a utility. Hair really doesn’t have any kind of value except the value that we put on it.

What was your best and worst hair experience?

My best and worst hair experience happens to be the same experience. It was my decision five years ago to wear my hair in dreadlocks. It was awful that it took me almost until mid-life to understand my own beauty with my natural hair. People very close to me, especially family members, were angry-even offended. Many even felt I was “ruining” my hair, or being militant.

It has turned out to be the best decision of my life. I no longer worry about keeping my hair straight. I have started to exercise regularly and enjoy the weather. I no longer have bad hair days! I am healthier and happier. Women come up to me all the time to admire my hair. It makes me proud to be a Black woman.

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