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Me, My Hair, and I: Twenty-seven Women Untangle an Obsession

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Ask a woman about her hair, and she just might tell you the story of her life. Ask a whole bunch of women about their hair, and you could get a history of the world. Surprising, insightful, frequently funny, and always forthright, the essays in Me, My Hair, and I are reflections and revelations about every aspect of women’s lives from family, race, religion, and motherhood Ask a woman about her hair, and she just might tell you the story of her life. Ask a whole bunch of women about their hair, and you could get a history of the world. Surprising, insightful, frequently funny, and always forthright, the essays in Me, My Hair, and I are reflections and revelations about every aspect of women’s lives from family, race, religion, and motherhood to culture, health, politics, and sexuality. They take place in African American kitchens, at Hindu Bengali weddings, and inside Hasidic Jewish homes. The conversation is intimate and global at once. Layered into these reminiscences are tributes to influences throughout history: Jackie Kennedy, Lena Horne, Farrah Fawcett, the Grateful Dead, and Botticelli’s Venus. The long and the short of it is that our hair is our glory—and our nemesis, our history, our self-esteem, our joy, our mortality. Every woman knows that many things in life matter more than hair, but few bring as much pleasure as a really great hairdo.


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Ask a woman about her hair, and she just might tell you the story of her life. Ask a whole bunch of women about their hair, and you could get a history of the world. Surprising, insightful, frequently funny, and always forthright, the essays in Me, My Hair, and I are reflections and revelations about every aspect of women’s lives from family, race, religion, and motherhood Ask a woman about her hair, and she just might tell you the story of her life. Ask a whole bunch of women about their hair, and you could get a history of the world. Surprising, insightful, frequently funny, and always forthright, the essays in Me, My Hair, and I are reflections and revelations about every aspect of women’s lives from family, race, religion, and motherhood to culture, health, politics, and sexuality. They take place in African American kitchens, at Hindu Bengali weddings, and inside Hasidic Jewish homes. The conversation is intimate and global at once. Layered into these reminiscences are tributes to influences throughout history: Jackie Kennedy, Lena Horne, Farrah Fawcett, the Grateful Dead, and Botticelli’s Venus. The long and the short of it is that our hair is our glory—and our nemesis, our history, our self-esteem, our joy, our mortality. Every woman knows that many things in life matter more than hair, but few bring as much pleasure as a really great hairdo.

30 review for Me, My Hair, and I: Twenty-seven Women Untangle an Obsession

  1. 5 out of 5

    Shelby *trains flying monkeys*

    Hair.... Most women fight it. Some love it. Some even just embrace it's many moods. We all have hair stories though. This book is some of those stories. And it's actually quite good. Because I tell you, you take a person with fluffy, wiry hair like mine and you put her in a convertible with the top down, the person gets out of the car looking like Buckwheat. Or Don King. It helps in one way to wear a hat, but when you take it off you have terrible hat hair-It looks like a cartoon mouse has Hair.... Most women fight it. Some love it. Some even just embrace it's many moods. We all have hair stories though. This book is some of those stories. And it's actually quite good. Because I tell you, you take a person with fluffy, wiry hair like mine and you put her in a convertible with the top down, the person gets out of the car looking like Buckwheat. Or Don King. It helps in one way to wear a hat, but when you take it off you have terrible hat hair-It looks like a cartoon mouse has been driving a little steamroller around your head. (This story is not in the book but it's one that immediately came to mind for me.) I remember when actress Keri Russell cut her hair..she went from this.. to this... and people totally flipped out. Her show that she was on at the time even suffered in the ratings because of it. There is some serious stories to this book as dealing with "chemo hair" and the fact that black women feel like they have to spend a fortune on their hair. Then there is one story in particular that talks about the "other hair" that women deal with. A friend told her about this.. "Women should vajazzle their vajayjays." It made her feel better, she said, after a nasty break-up. A brief aside on what vajazzling entails: someone strips all the hair off your vulva, labia, and anus and then glues crystals or pearls in some sort of decorative motif in place of the hair. First of all: Don't google this (Or the phrase "Willie Nelson vagina tattoo.") You can't unsee it. You guys have no idea how bad I wanted to include that Willie Nelson vagina tattoo in this review. Because you know I looked. Just like I know you are gonna look. Booksource: Netgalley in exchange for review. None of my friends have read this book yet..but reviewers should still be superstars. So I'm including this review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I enjoyed most of these essays, they are not why I only giving this book two stars. I'm giving it a two because of what was not included. There was only one (that I can remember) African American writer, and a handful of other non-white. Also, there was no woman who wears a hijab, even though there is a picture of a woman wearing one on the cover. Just seemed like a homogenous group of writers. I enjoyed most of these essays, they are not why I only giving this book two stars. I'm giving it a two because of what was not included. There was only one (that I can remember) African American writer, and a handful of other non-white. Also, there was no woman who wears a hijab, even though there is a picture of a woman wearing one on the cover. Just seemed like a homogenous group of writers.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    Me, My Hair, and I is a collection of short musings on a variety of women's relationship to their hair. Certainly for me hair and its meaning/s have been a significant part of my life. From my childhood battles with my mother over its length to my 70s long, unstyled hair to my adjustment to the changes age has wrought, my relationship to hair has in many ways, at different times in my life, defined the way I viewed myself, my body and my place in the world. Apparently I'm not alone. These short m Me, My Hair, and I is a collection of short musings on a variety of women's relationship to their hair. Certainly for me hair and its meaning/s have been a significant part of my life. From my childhood battles with my mother over its length to my 70s long, unstyled hair to my adjustment to the changes age has wrought, my relationship to hair has in many ways, at different times in my life, defined the way I viewed myself, my body and my place in the world. Apparently I'm not alone. These short musings and memories tell of how women glory in, despair over, and come to terms with their hair. Many of the recollections have to do with their hair and their relationships with the mothers or other family members. Many have to do with larger issues of self-acceptance. Some deal with the ramifications of hair and race in our society. This collection is probably best read over time. While I found all of the individual stories interesting, reading it in a short time was a lot of time spent on hair. However, the advantage of reading it in a brief period of time was the cumulative effect of how much hair matters to women (or many women, anyway) and to how we are viewed by others-women as well as men. "Good" hair means acceptance, popularity, success, while "bad" hair means feeling like an outsider. And how good and bad are decided has a lot to do with race and the values held by society. So hair and the obsession with it is both individual and societal. It affects so many aspect of a woman's life, how she is viewed by others and, in turn, how that gets internalized as part of her self-image. And how coming to terms with her hair can liberate a woman in many ways, energize her and increase her self-esteem exponentially. I found these reminiscences to be consistently well-written and engaging, and often moving and thought-provoking as well. My thanks to LibraryThing for giving me this book in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rojo

    Note right off the bat: This is not a book for anyone under 30. Well, that's not entirely true, nor is it entirely fair, because there are some important messages in this book. What is true is that the youngest contributor to this collection of stories about hair graduated from college in 2010. That puts her somewhere around the 27-28 range right about now. I'm 22 (same age as that author was when she was diagnosed with cancer, which I--to my knowledge--do not have and therefore really cannot id Note right off the bat: This is not a book for anyone under 30. Well, that's not entirely true, nor is it entirely fair, because there are some important messages in this book. What is true is that the youngest contributor to this collection of stories about hair graduated from college in 2010. That puts her somewhere around the 27-28 range right about now. I'm 22 (same age as that author was when she was diagnosed with cancer, which I--to my knowledge--do not have and therefore really cannot identify with her story) and just graduated college, and am still somewhat trying to figure out my own story about my hair. I saw this book in Magers & Quinn Booksellers in Uptown two days ago when I was there with a friend after dinner. Instantly caught by the title, because as someone who has a sort of tumultuous relationship with her hair, it spoke to me. Flipped through a couple pages, decided I needed to buy it because the essay entitled "My Black Hair," and the few sentences I read were basically my life as far as I could tell. Didn't have enough cash, so I went back yesterday, bought it, started reading, started liking it. I also started noticing a few things about this book: though I appreciate that several of the contributors had self-described "wild," "thick," "curly/frizzy" hair, there was only (as far as I could tell through the contexts of the other essays) one account of a black woman. There were other women of color, yes, but all the other stories about Jewish-American women fighting with their mothers, rejecting traditional practices of hair, growing up and wanting to look like Joan Baez or Janis Joplin, did nothing for me. It's not that I don't know who all these women are--I do; with the exception of two people I've never heard of before, I've pretty much heard of/watched the films starring/listened to the music of these referenced women--it's just that...it wasn't part of my time. Presumably all but one of these women are now in their 50's, 60's, 70's. All of them talk about their mothers and daughters, especially. Cancer, yes it is life-changing in a not-so-good way, is an important milestone and wake up call for a lot of them, but it's something I have no experience with, nor can I empathize with. And it's not that I don't appreciate the self-reflection that these women have gone through academically, individually and stylistically, but some, if not most of the struggles are hard to really personalize. The fighting with their mothers part, though...that's pretty universal. Also, growing up in a culture that also calls "good hair" a blessing was relieving and also frustrating to read. I remember my mom using relaxer on my own curly-kinky hair when I was a kid (only for Easter and Christmas, the rest of the year I was in braids); having waist-long box braids in elementary school, only for my hair to succumb to the chemical and heat damage and start cutting itself. My mom has always blamed me for that, syaing I didn't know how to take care of it, when really, relaxer--even mild enough for children--should not be used on a child starting at age 6. And puberty was not kind either, frizzing my curls that I straightened it almost every day. Because, as most of the contributors recalled, middle school was tough. This book did make me think of my mother's own favoritism of my sister's waist-long jet black ringlets over my shoulder length, blackish-brown (turns red in the summer), kinky-curls (even though she says my hair looks healthier now, and more "me" it's basically a backhanded compliment that my hair has never looked good until now); her own adventures with short hair then back to long hair, the female professors I've had and their hairstyles, my friends' hair, what my boyfriend thinks of my hair (he likes it like it is now, natural, and to my grandmother's delight, does not think I should go back to straightening. Which I won't and haven't done in two years simply because I'm lazy.)...the books gives a lot to think about in a woman's life. And I wonder if guys have to think about their hair as much. Probably not. 2.5 stars, it was good, but I need something a little younger.The generational and racial gaps in the narratives were a little too wide for my liking. A little more variety in the women--race, ages, occupations (it seemed like all the contributors worked in academia or journalism), and location (PLEASE, anywhere but NYC again. I love the city, but c'mon)--would be spectacular. I want to hear about a Native American teenager growing up in South Dakota, or a Latina in Seattle, or a black girl in some small town in the middle of Iowa. Variety is the spice of life. Especially when it comes to hair.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I had no idea there was so much to say about hair. Wow! This was an eye-opener for me, since I'm that someone who just washes and goes. As I was reading these various women's stories, I thought about my past hairdos and remembered many stories that I have myself. I remember going from long hair to super short abruptly, the one time my grandma bleached my hair and how much I hated it until she put a golden blonde rinse on it, my perm in the 80's when I was going to be a high school freshman and h I had no idea there was so much to say about hair. Wow! This was an eye-opener for me, since I'm that someone who just washes and goes. As I was reading these various women's stories, I thought about my past hairdos and remembered many stories that I have myself. I remember going from long hair to super short abruptly, the one time my grandma bleached my hair and how much I hated it until she put a golden blonde rinse on it, my perm in the 80's when I was going to be a high school freshman and had to swim in PE, and of course the hours I spent before school each morning curling and feathering my hair. I'm sure there are many more stories, but now I'm pretty low maintenance. Anyway, this was a fun book to read and I found myself resonating with a few ladies more than others. Thank you LibraryThing for this advanced copy and the opportunity to read and review this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Johanna

    like being trapped in a stranger's bridesmaid spa day. like being trapped in a stranger's bridesmaid spa day.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    3 1/2* I’m somewhat amused by hashtags such as #bighairdontcare #messyhairdontcare because women care a lot about hair. One #badhairday can set the tone for one excruciating day because when our hair doesn’t look good we feel less confident. Hair is generally one of the first things someone notices. Women spend a lot of time on coloring and weaving and treating and styling. In August I colored my hair bright red. I got many compliments from a surly teen on the streets of Boston to a gray haired ma 3 1/2* I’m somewhat amused by hashtags such as #bighairdontcare #messyhairdontcare because women care a lot about hair. One #badhairday can set the tone for one excruciating day because when our hair doesn’t look good we feel less confident. Hair is generally one of the first things someone notices. Women spend a lot of time on coloring and weaving and treating and styling. In August I colored my hair bright red. I got many compliments from a surly teen on the streets of Boston to a gray haired man in the office building where I see my therapist. Now it’s a bit less bright as I used a color lift on it but it’s a kaleidoscope of reds and blondes. I think it’s cool for now but will go back to the deep burgundy I generally color my hair. I’m a natural blonde. I had blonde hair all through grad school. It’s not me. It does not suit me. My hair is also naturally wavy which I fought throughout high school and college. Now I embrace my semi-wild rocker hair. Although EVERY time I get my hair cut, the stylist wants to blow dry my hair straight which just doesn’t work and doesn’t suit my personality. I think my hair is one of my best features. My minimalist style approach works for me which doesn’t mean I don’t want my hair to look good. I just don’t want perfect hair. In the introduction, editor Elizabeth Benedict writes: “While it’s easy to make light of our obsession with our hair, very few of the writers in these pages do that. We get that hair is serious. It’s our glory, our nemesis, our history, our sexuality, our religion, our vanity, our joy, and our mortality. It’s true that there are many things in life that matter more than hair, but few that matter in quite these complicated, energizing, and interconnected ways. As near as I can tell, that’s the long and short of it.” Benedict asked 27 women to contribute to this anthology. Writers include: Anne Lamott; Adriana Trigiani; Myra Goldberg; Jane Smiley; Hallie Ephron; Suleika Jaouad; Patricia Volk; Siri Hustvedt and more. There’s a mix of races and cultures represented. There isn’t a wide age range or economical range represented. Most of these writers are in their 50s and 60s and well off that they can afford to spend much money on their hair. Suleika Jaouad writes about losing her hair to chemotherapy treatments in “Hair, Interrupted:” “My disease has taught me that I can far more effectively take control of my look by embracing it and having fun with it, rather than forcibly trying to make something it is not.” In “My Black Hair,” Marita Golden writes: “I feel narrow minded and judgmental when all I really want is a world where Black women are healthy and have healthy hair that does not put them in the poorhouse, cause health problems, or reinforce the idea that they have to look White to be valued. And this does not mean that I want a world of Black women who have hair that only looks like mine.” Anne Lamott writes a wonderful essay that describes the moment she decides to get dreadlocks. Of her look she writes: “Dreadlocks make people wonder if you’re trying to be rebellious. It’s not as garbling and stapled as a tongue stud, say or as snaky as tattoos, but dreadlocks make you look a little like Medusa, because they writhe and appear to have a life of their own, and that’s scary.” Then she writes: “Dreadlocks would be a way of saying I was no longer going to play with the rules of mainstream white beauty.” Patricia Volk shares the list of expensive products she uses in “Frizzball” including a Moroccan oil intense curl cream ($45) and Coppola color care shampoo ($15). She writes: “I am one miniscule reason why the hair care industry, according to Goldman Sachs, is worth $38 billion a year in products alone.” In quite an amusing essay “And Be Sure to Tell Your Mother,” Alex Kuczynski gets a full wax to her vaginal area in Turkey. “I arrived back at the hotel, and my boyfriend remarked that I looked like an enormous eight-year-old,” she writes. Good boyfriend. Many guys seem to like “no hair down there.” She notes: “I would learn that in Islam, pubic and underarm hair is considered unclean for both sexes and is routinely shaved or waxed.” Bharati Mukherjee explains Hindu hair rituals in “Romance and Ritual.” She writes: “Unmarried girls and wives take guiltless pride in their long lustrous hair. But Hindu Bengali tradition requires widows to keep their heads permanently shaved as one of many gestures of penance.” Adriana Trigiani beautifully explains what we all know—society prefers straight hair to curly or wavy. In “Oh Capello” she writes: “I realize that this straight-hair-over-curly thing is real; they want curls banned. I’m a rebel—well, not exactly. I just do what’s easy—and easy translated from the Italian means curly (and if it doesn’t it should).” In “Much Ado about Hairdos,” Suri Hustvedt explains: “A never-combed head of hair may announce that its owner lives outside human society altogether—is a wild child, a hermit, or an insane person. It may also signify beliefs and political or cultural marginality.” The essays are humorous, contemplative, provocative and honest. These women write about embracing the hair on their head. They develop styles to empower them. They generally do what makes them happy and do not conform to societal standards. Perhaps that’s why there are no twentysomething writers in this group. Twentysomethings are still figuring themselves out. Not that anyone figures everything out by any particular age; we just become a bit more comfortable in our skin and with our hair. FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Algonquin.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nuha

    While the concept of the book was interesting, I wish there was more diversity represented, perhaps some international perspectives on hair as well as American. There should have been more diversity among classes too because not everyone can afford to go to a hair stylist. I just got bored by the barrage of white women trying to make themselves into movie stars.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Su

    Not so much Hair-story, Very much HERstory The anthologies of stories here were often touching and insightful, and it was comforting to read who even across age, class, and race hair is never a simple matter. But several of the stories/essays had very little to do with hair and seemed to be the author's attempt at working through some other issue in life but forcing (really forcing!) a line of hair-connectivity through the matter so that it would be possible to publish in this collection. There w Not so much Hair-story, Very much HERstory The anthologies of stories here were often touching and insightful, and it was comforting to read who even across age, class, and race hair is never a simple matter. But several of the stories/essays had very little to do with hair and seemed to be the author's attempt at working through some other issue in life but forcing (really forcing!) a line of hair-connectivity through the matter so that it would be possible to publish in this collection. There were a few stories that I felt needed more editing or simply a different publication because they were hard to follow or just didn't really seem to have anything to do with hair truthfully. That is, of course, not to say that they weren't beautiful in their own right. But I was disappointed that more of the stories weren't related to this topic of struggling with ones hair and it's the many meanings we, our cultures, and societies have imposed on it and our selves. If you are struggling with your own hair and personal journey and are looking for specific stories to ease your doubts, something to relate to and find comfort in, you may just want to go online and browse free forums and YouTube channels and save your money. If money is no object and you don't care about hair in particular but simply the experience of being female and having to perform your gender and questioning society's rigid allowances for that performance and other various traits tied to identity then this is a pretty satisfying read. Individually, I felt some of these stories deserved 5 stars and a few 2 or 3 and the average was a 4. Again, if you're trying to read more and don't mind spending the money, give it a go!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Melora

    I really enjoyed a couple of these, but after a while there was a little too much "sameness." Bad childhood haircuts, teenage rebellion expressed through hair, true love found with a man who appreciates author's hair, mature acceptance of hair and self (or mature acceptance of expensive hair treatments and self). I've been thinking about a bit of hair color -- highlights sound like a brightening sort of change as another 50-something birthday looms -- but all the descriptions of smelly processin I really enjoyed a couple of these, but after a while there was a little too much "sameness." Bad childhood haircuts, teenage rebellion expressed through hair, true love found with a man who appreciates author's hair, mature acceptance of hair and self (or mature acceptance of expensive hair treatments and self). I've been thinking about a bit of hair color -- highlights sound like a brightening sort of change as another 50-something birthday looms -- but all the descriptions of smelly processing chemicals were discouraging. Still, "good" hair does make a difference!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I received this book for free through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers. I enjoyed this collection of essays about women and their hair. This is actually a really interesting topic, because if you think about it, hair plays a big role in women's lives. I thought it started off really strong, but the essays got a bit weaker towards the end. Overall, a solid collection. I received this book for free through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers. I enjoyed this collection of essays about women and their hair. This is actually a really interesting topic, because if you think about it, hair plays a big role in women's lives. I thought it started off really strong, but the essays got a bit weaker towards the end. Overall, a solid collection.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Runwright

    Read my review here: https://wp.me/p4cJzL-3VV Read my review here: https://wp.me/p4cJzL-3VV

  13. 4 out of 5

    Reader50

    Thank you to Algonquin Books and Goodreads for a copy of this marvelous collection of essays which often made me smile as I read how these twenty-seven accomplished writers shared many of the same obsessions with hair as I do with mine. When I was in my mid-twenties, I vowed to myself to strive to keep my hair presentably trimmed and coiffed after a chance encounter with a former college mate at a community fair. My first impression upon seeing her was, “Oh my goodness, she looks so matronly” ev Thank you to Algonquin Books and Goodreads for a copy of this marvelous collection of essays which often made me smile as I read how these twenty-seven accomplished writers shared many of the same obsessions with hair as I do with mine. When I was in my mid-twenties, I vowed to myself to strive to keep my hair presentably trimmed and coiffed after a chance encounter with a former college mate at a community fair. My first impression upon seeing her was, “Oh my goodness, she looks so matronly” even though she was but two years older than me and barely five years out of college. Granted motherhood denies a new mother time and energy for oneself but a little attention to her “do” would have made all the difference. Though embarassed by my vanity, I silently promised myself to maintain a decent hair cut as long as I had the financial means. In my view, how the world saw me was determined by how I felt about myself and having a nice “do” did more for my self confidene than my wardrobe or makeup. Reading these essays, I felt a kinship with these accomplished, successful women who shared some of my own feelings of inadequacy when I was unhappy with my hair. The sentiments shared by these women, all very personal,candid and often with humor, made me realize that I am among many who obsess about hair.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Chanel

    As a hairstylist, I thought I would enjoy this book, even learn something from it that would make me better at my job. Instead, I found myself feeling like I was at work listening to yet another women tell me what about her hair makes her not good enough. I guess I was naive in thinking that there would be more substance. All the stories go the same way, there is some cultural or religious pretext for what your hair is supposed to be, then mom/grandma admonishing you for your hair's disobedience As a hairstylist, I thought I would enjoy this book, even learn something from it that would make me better at my job. Instead, I found myself feeling like I was at work listening to yet another women tell me what about her hair makes her not good enough. I guess I was naive in thinking that there would be more substance. All the stories go the same way, there is some cultural or religious pretext for what your hair is supposed to be, then mom/grandma admonishing you for your hair's disobedience, a traumatizing trip to the hair salon where in there is a comparison to Samson and how your hair being cut has taken away all of your power, then your hair transformations over the years after you finally free of your mom/cultures/religious reign, then you trying, but failing, at not doing the same thing to your children. There, all 300 pages and 27 stories summarized into one paragraph. You just read the book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    I love the idea of this book. I, too, would probably relate my history in terms of my hair: when and why it was long, what it meant to cut it short. So the idea of this book fills me with joy. I want to make other people read it so I have someone to talk about it with. Only I won't, because the execution isn't all that it could be. For one thing, there's a disconnect between the chick lit cover and some of the essays that wander off into the weeds of theory. And while I'm on board -- sure Freud, I love the idea of this book. I, too, would probably relate my history in terms of my hair: when and why it was long, what it meant to cut it short. So the idea of this book fills me with joy. I want to make other people read it so I have someone to talk about it with. Only I won't, because the execution isn't all that it could be. For one thing, there's a disconnect between the chick lit cover and some of the essays that wander off into the weeds of theory. And while I'm on board -- sure Freud, hair, absolutely -- I'm not sure that's what this book initially promises and if that's not what you want, you're probably going to bog down. Second, this book has an unexpected take on diversity. There's only one author who would probably identify as African American which -- given how much there is to say about black women and hair in America -- doesn't seem sufficient. The diversity EB went for is more a diversity of experience: multi-ethnic women, older women, Jewish women, cancer patients, women who've lived all over the world. Individually, they seem diverse. But together, they mostly seem very much the same. Like the collection should have been titled "The Hair of Literary Women Who've Lived in New York." What does it mean to be a woman in the military, a cadet who shaves her head? What about certain fundamentalist Christians who don't cut their hair? What is it like to be black in Omaha where there aren't dozens of salons that understand textured hair? I think the essays that are the most successful are the ones that focus on the physicality of hair, rather than the idea of hair. And tell a particular story of hair. Those are the stories that stand out. The rest are kind of a frizzy blur. The collection could have used some editing. I lost count of the number of essays that mentioned Sampson. Interesting to know that's what everyone thought of, but not that interesting to read (and read and read) about. It also committed a sin I can't forgive. It hacked up that hairball of an observation -- that cancer patients who lose their hair, often find it grows back nicer than it was before. Curly! And red! PSA: not all cancer patients lose their hair because of chemo. Radiation also causes hair loss and that hair often does not grow back. Curly or red or any other way. Not all chemo causes hair loss. And offering up that hopeful observation to someone who has cancer -- as if you know more about their treatment than they do -- is not high on the list of helpful things you can do. I think what this collection made me consider most, though, are the lies we tell ourselves. And while some of the essays grapple with this -- does my colored hair really disguise the fact that I'm in my fifties? -- most of the writers seem to suggest that after some youthful or misguided experimentation, they have finally arrived at the hair cut, the attitude, the perspective on hair that is right. I had 2 feet of the most beautiful hair in the world. I wore it long so that everyone would know I was old fashioned and different and eventually one day some man would take me buggy riding before marrying me and carrying me off to his farm where all our crops would die and we would get diphtheria. (The Laura fantasy was a powerful one.) I wanted to dress my hair, wear it up in a pompadour. Fortunately, the internet wasn't a thing yet so I couldn't find out what a pompadour was and try to make one, rendering junior high even worse. I wanted to braid my hair full of ribbons and run across moors with it blowing in the wind. In reality, I had 2 feet of frizz and split ends because I hadn't discovered product. I was completely inept at fixing it. And in 1996, not even hair I could sit on was going to get me a buggy ride. But man, that was a powerful lie. A lot of the essays read this way -- full of the things we tell ourselves, the things we hope other people are thinking, the things we want other people to say about us. In Honor Moore's essay, for example, she writes about using hair combs: "I have been told that the dance of my hands twisting and lifting my thick curtain of hair is an act of kinetic sculpture." First of all, if your friends really talk that way, it's time to get new friends. And second, yeah, I told myself that one too. I also experimented with combs. I hoped I looked elegant -- vintage yet timeless -- when I fiddled with my hair. Then the combs fell out. An artful collection, but perhaps not always the most honest one.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Some of the stories were wonderful, but most were about affluent, white ladies with vanity issues in Manhattan who were spending too much money on their hair. I could have done without about ten of the stories to make it a better and less homogeneous read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Panda Incognito

    Hair has never been a special interest of mine, but this essay compilation caught my eye at the library with its beautiful cover and quirky concept. From glances inside, I could see that the prose was excellent all throughout, so I decided to give it a try. Many women had interesting stories to share about the way hair affected and framed their life circumstances and journeys, and I enjoyed the anecdotes and philosophical musings, but even though each essay was unique and personal in the moment Hair has never been a special interest of mine, but this essay compilation caught my eye at the library with its beautiful cover and quirky concept. From glances inside, I could see that the prose was excellent all throughout, so I decided to give it a try. Many women had interesting stories to share about the way hair affected and framed their life circumstances and journeys, and I enjoyed the anecdotes and philosophical musings, but even though each essay was unique and personal in the moment of reading it, now that I am finished with the book, most of them blur together because they dealt with such similar themes and circumstances. There was a mix of diverse writers, so I learned new things about other's religious traditions and cultural backgrounds, but the age and economic similarities between the authors got tiring. Because they are mostly from the same generation, they had similar cultural influences and hair experiences, and now they have many of the same thoughts about hair, family, maturity, and identity. I would have appreciated the inclusion of some younger writers still figuring out their hair and themselves. Also, these were the voices of people well-off enough to spend a lot of money on styling and products. There's no shame in financial security, but it got awfully tiresome to read recitals of which fancy salons these women frequented and what hairstyles they got there over the course of years. The most interesting essays dealt with universal human feelings in the context of the woman's individual experience, while those which fixated only on the writer's hair and circumstances got tiresome quickly and meshed in memory with the other boring ones. I can't tell you how many essays I read about women with frizzy brown hair who had to learn how to tame it and accept themselves. Were there three? Eleven? It felt like more than half the book. Even though the frizzy brown hair essays included interesting anecdotes or thoughts, the focal point was what the hair was like, and I hardly remember those stories now. Also exhausting was the sheer number of women who had hair expectations imposed on them by culture, religion, or their mother and found themselves by detaching their sense of self from that culture, religion, or mother. All of the stories were unique in some way, but I think this book would have been more enjoyable in a shorter, more selective form without so much theme repetition.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Keegan

    Overall, I was intrigued by the simple concept that hair (or the lack of it) puts such a mark on our identities. For the most part, the stories were fun (some were hilarious! In particular, one about hair...down there...you know what I'm talking about) and spoke volumes for how hair can be a metaphor for identity, marriage, careers, health, beauty, you name it. However, I felt hard-pressed to give my full attention to the stories towards the end of the book because there were so many, and many s Overall, I was intrigued by the simple concept that hair (or the lack of it) puts such a mark on our identities. For the most part, the stories were fun (some were hilarious! In particular, one about hair...down there...you know what I'm talking about) and spoke volumes for how hair can be a metaphor for identity, marriage, careers, health, beauty, you name it. However, I felt hard-pressed to give my full attention to the stories towards the end of the book because there were so many, and many stories at the end were echoes of previous stories. There were 27 authors writing about their hair, and while many did a fabulous job, there are really only so many variations of the same story you can tell without being redundant. Also, as a younger woman (I'm almost 31), I felt a bit disenfranchised by the sheer number of stories (like 95%!!!) that were written by women over 50. There were two stories by women around my age, and I felt very underrepresented. Where were the women of my generation and their stories? Missing is where. And if that wasn't enough, no stories were written about what it is like being a REDHEAD!!! What?!?!?!! Ok, I'll admit that I am completely biased because I am one of those redheads, but seriously? In a book about our obsession with hair and how it defines us, I was shocked (and quite disappointed by the end) that my story wasn't represented. Redheads are literally walking, genetic mutants. The gene for our hair is on a completely different chromosome, and we weren't even given the time of day. We are often the brunt of jokes, models of passion and anger, and sources of mystery and intrigue. If anything, it was a major downfall of the book to exclude us. Guess I'll have to go write my own story about being a redhead. But seriously, the book as a whole was pretty fun. I'd love to see a men's version one day. They obsess over their hair, too!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kaleigh

    I had high hopes for this book, and it was okay. If I'm being really critical, this book was a 2.75 because of it's rather repetitive nature. About 100 pages in I felt like I was reading different variations of one formulated essay. I wanted more stories from women of color, younger and older women, women who weren't authors or professors, women who didn't have children, etc. My particular frustration was the endings: they all seemed to end in a very similar manner. They offered minimal diversit I had high hopes for this book, and it was okay. If I'm being really critical, this book was a 2.75 because of it's rather repetitive nature. About 100 pages in I felt like I was reading different variations of one formulated essay. I wanted more stories from women of color, younger and older women, women who weren't authors or professors, women who didn't have children, etc. My particular frustration was the endings: they all seemed to end in a very similar manner. They offered minimal diversity within the writing and the stories themselves. There were a few that stood out, and make this book worth reading. I think this book is best read here and there, because in my opinion it's not a book for sitting down and reading for hours at a time.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Susannah

    I enjoyed the first half of this collection of essays much more than the second, though I think it's because I lost patience with the topic. Or, I don't know, I felt like the essayists became more pretentious as the book went on? And, as entertaining and interesting as many of them were, 27 essays is a lot of hair. I tried to read this slowly - just one-to-two essays a day - but maybe even more slowly would have been better. I would like to have seen a little bit better national representation i I enjoyed the first half of this collection of essays much more than the second, though I think it's because I lost patience with the topic. Or, I don't know, I felt like the essayists became more pretentious as the book went on? And, as entertaining and interesting as many of them were, 27 essays is a lot of hair. I tried to read this slowly - just one-to-two essays a day - but maybe even more slowly would have been better. I would like to have seen a little bit better national representation in this book. I would say that 90%+ of the essayists are from New York. The rest moved there as young adults. How about one by a dark-haired "outcast" among California's stereotypical blonds?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Becca

    There were some definite themes in this book of essays, including: - how embracing my natural hair helped me learn to love myself, - hair cut/color/style exploration as a path to personal transformation, & - how we rebel from our parents with our hair, and later try to teach our offspring what to do with theirs. I thought it was mostly a really interesting selection - there were writers from Sri Lanka, a Hasidic community, Italy. There was a linguistic essay, a literary analysis of Rapunzel, person There were some definite themes in this book of essays, including: - how embracing my natural hair helped me learn to love myself, - hair cut/color/style exploration as a path to personal transformation, & - how we rebel from our parents with our hair, and later try to teach our offspring what to do with theirs. I thought it was mostly a really interesting selection - there were writers from Sri Lanka, a Hasidic community, Italy. There was a linguistic essay, a literary analysis of Rapunzel, personal stories by many well-known writers (Adriana Trigiani, Anne Lamont, Jane Smiley... to name a few), and an essay about nether-region hair by the daughter of the Peruvian president!!

  22. 4 out of 5

    justice

    What a beautiful story

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie G.

    There are some good pieces here, Deborah Tannen's is particularly excellent and Marita Golden, Ru Freeman, and Adriana Trigiani also impressed. But the vast majority of these essays are the reminiscences of middle class white women of a certain age (often Jewish), and as a result there is a repetitiveness that makes this a bit of a slog. I am a middle class Jewish white woman of a certain age. My mother told me how ugly my hair was pretty much daily until the day she died. Through my teen years There are some good pieces here, Deborah Tannen's is particularly excellent and Marita Golden, Ru Freeman, and Adriana Trigiani also impressed. But the vast majority of these essays are the reminiscences of middle class white women of a certain age (often Jewish), and as a result there is a repetitiveness that makes this a bit of a slog. I am a middle class Jewish white woman of a certain age. My mother told me how ugly my hair was pretty much daily until the day she died. Through my teen years (until I put my foot down in 11th grade) she took me to a straightening place in a particularly rough Detroit neighborhood to try to make it less horrible. After straightening it really was ugly. As an adult I have come to kind of love my hair, and like many of the authors in this anthology, that evolution dovetails with a broader acceptance of self. Certainly there were many points on which I connected to the pieces, but that still doesn't make the 5th story about how someone had their mother iron their hair on an ironing board more appealing. If I was not reading this for the Book Riot challenge I imagine I would have abandoned ship. 300 pages on feelings about hair is just more than I can take. YMMV

  24. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher and Edelweiss for review purposes. I was really intrigued by the concept of this book-- essays about hair and its personal and cultural meaning for many different writers-- but was a bit let down at the essays themselves. I think it was because there were so many essays that they all began to blend together for me. The combination, I think, of the similarity of some of the subject matter, with the short length of most of the essays, kept me Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher and Edelweiss for review purposes. I was really intrigued by the concept of this book-- essays about hair and its personal and cultural meaning for many different writers-- but was a bit let down at the essays themselves. I think it was because there were so many essays that they all began to blend together for me. The combination, I think, of the similarity of some of the subject matter, with the short length of most of the essays, kept me from being able to remember them as distinct voices. Overall, still a brief interesting read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    I won this book for free in the Goodreads First Reads giveaway. I was actually surprised by this book. I thought it was only going to be OK, but I was wrong. This isn't only about hair. It's about cultural values and what makes a woman a woman. I learned how religion can influence someone's beliefs about what is considered clean or unclean in regards to hair, and how hair can be used to control others. It definitely gave me a new perspective on women of other cultures, and a better understanding I won this book for free in the Goodreads First Reads giveaway. I was actually surprised by this book. I thought it was only going to be OK, but I was wrong. This isn't only about hair. It's about cultural values and what makes a woman a woman. I learned how religion can influence someone's beliefs about what is considered clean or unclean in regards to hair, and how hair can be used to control others. It definitely gave me a new perspective on women of other cultures, and a better understanding of how hair is so much more than hair. A fascinating read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Christie Ralston

    It's really quite amazing how many novel ideas can be shared about hair. This book encompasses only a small portion of those. Benedict chooses essays that mostly focus around age and race when it comes to hair. While those were interesting, I would have loved to read more about hair as it relates to other aspects of identity - religion, sexuality, socio-economic status, etc. Overall the book is good, but not great, often becoming repetitive in its message. I would recommend certain essays, but n It's really quite amazing how many novel ideas can be shared about hair. This book encompasses only a small portion of those. Benedict chooses essays that mostly focus around age and race when it comes to hair. While those were interesting, I would have loved to read more about hair as it relates to other aspects of identity - religion, sexuality, socio-economic status, etc. Overall the book is good, but not great, often becoming repetitive in its message. I would recommend certain essays, but not the entire collection

  27. 4 out of 5

    Shawnta Dodson

    I enjoyed some of the essays in this book but overall I was underwhelmed. There were writers of color, which I was glad to see. My issue is that the textures in the stories were too similar. So many heads of not quite curly, long, frizzy hair. While their experiences with this head of hair was varied, I felt like I was reading the same story over and over again. I enjoyed the different cultural aspects but felt like there could have been more stories dealing with different textures and cultures.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Margie

    I will venture a guess there isn't a woman around who has not done battle with her hair at some point in her life. This collection of essays from women will resonate in some way with any woman through the perils of too curly, too kinky, too straight, too dark, too light, too gray, too heavy, etc. Some of the writings are serious, some are hilarious. Plenty here to validate our own personal struggles. I will venture a guess there isn't a woman around who has not done battle with her hair at some point in her life. This collection of essays from women will resonate in some way with any woman through the perils of too curly, too kinky, too straight, too dark, too light, too gray, too heavy, etc. Some of the writings are serious, some are hilarious. Plenty here to validate our own personal struggles.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Iva

    This collection of articles/essays about the importance of hair was quite entertaining. These women often had an issue with a relative--it could be the sister with better hair or the mother who insisted on a certain style or length. Even fathers sometimes had a say in the matter. No one thought the topic too light--each essay was personal and central themes were race, religion and age--going gray for example. An enjoyable collection.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Holstrom

    Hair is a symbol of identity: social status, sexuality, politics. This collection of short essays by women about their hair and what it means is just lovely. We hear from women across the globe, telling the history of their own hair coupled with the history of hair in their cultures. We hear from women who lose their hair from chemotherapy. We hear from women who spent their childhoods wishing their hair were anything but what it is.

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