Wanda has some Xhosa
Self-Confidence & Empowerment
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The dominant white culture in our society has strict, Eurocentric standards for what constitutes as appropriate and professional. These are books that push back on that narrative, and embrace the uniqueness of the strands that protrude from our heads in every which way.
This book is everything, it’s absolutely joyful to read. The narrator is a young girl (based on the author’s daughter, Satya) and she LOVES being hair twins with her Papa. He tenderly brushes and styles both of their hair every day, and their favorite color is pink! Papa brushes his long hair before putting it up in his turban, because the family is Sikh. The pair even have traditions like “hair cheers” and bump buns as well as dance parties.
I love this book for so many reasons; it’s Own Voices, it’s written as a celebration of the special hair bond between father and daughter, and it’s not about any racism or adversity faced because they’re a family of color. The text has beautiful and evocative language that show how close the pair are, and the connection they share with the time they spend together doing their hair in the morning. There is an especially sweet line about knowing Papa is close by because she can smell coconut oil. We need more books like this, that showcase families having fun and living their daily lives; especially underrepresented lived experiences like that of Sikh families. Seriously, you need this book!
Oh Wanda, her day has started off pretty crummy and only seems to get worse. She’s late to the bus, gets made fun of for her voluminous locks, and despite knowing the positive mantras that her mother tells her everyday, sometimes it’s hard for Wanda to feel like a confident queen. After a particularly difficult day where Wanda was chastised by her teacher for having “hair like a bird’s nest” she returns home to see her Makhulu, her grandmother, has come to visit with a very special photo album to show Wanda.
Something I also find really interesting about this book is how the teacher is never shown. Keeping her identity unknown represents colonialism to me, an unknown and intimidating power that insults Wanda’s hair and culture. I have a South African friend named Sthembile, and when we first met she told me I could “use her English name” so it was easier. I told her that was ridiculous, I was going to use her actual name, and Sthembile told me that she and her other Zulu community members had to choose Anglicized names when they started school. Wanda is also an Own Voices book, and the authors are from South Africa. So many books about racism and marginalization I get the privilege of reading are written with a North American lens. This book helps to take a step back and realize that hair can be a topic of contention in other countries as well.
This story follows a rambunctious and excited girl on the way to get her hair done for her birthday. She’s wracked with indecision, everyone in her family has such cool hair and she just wants to make the right choice for her!
Upon reaching the hairdressers, there are tons of magazines to look at and friends’ hairstyles to reflect on. The narrator thinks hard…should she get waves like her brother, or a high-top fade? What about the close-cropped cut like her lioness aunt? Finally, her mom whispers a hairstyle in her ears…but will it be the right one??
This book is much like Hair Twins, filled with joy and self-esteem. My Hair mentions tons of hairstyles found in the Black community, and the excitement of visiting the salon for a special occasion. The text rhymes and I think lots of readers will see themselves and their favorite hairstyles reflected on the pages of this book!
These books were all kindly sent by the publishers, but all opinions and decision to review are my own. These books are all beautiful, and with a quick reminder that I’m white and have the “preferred” hair type that we see in the media constantly (blond, straight, and soft). I certainly don’t know what it’s like to be penalized for wearing traditional hairstyles. However, I do have the privilege to amplify these (and many more) books, to hopefully turn the tides on how we embrace and react to all things related to hair.