Review: Hot Comb
Growing up around Black women, my whole life, I know that their relationship to their hair is like no other. This is not to say every woman feels a certain way about their hair. This is different for Black Women. The kinship is almost mystical even ethereal in some instances. As I’ve gotten older, the women in my family, especially my daughters, made me comprehend that it’s much more profound than synergy but an intimate fragment of their individuality.
Their hair is tethered to memories and for most Black women it’s the first time they felt being seen. Never mind the fact that people of color are marginalized in just about every part of the world, but more so women of color, especially Black Women. This is why their hair, like Samson, is where they draw their power from. In Ebony Flowers’ moving Hot Comb, we get several stories of Black women and their bond to their hair.
In the titular story, we follow a young woman as she goes to a salon to get her very first perm, with her mother in tow, as her need to get one is tied to the fact that her identity gets challenged by her contemporaries about her appearance, that her hair is nappy, her family on her behavior , especially her mother who accuses her of acting too white, which leads her to this place, in hope of getting some reprieve from getting teased, through getting a perm in a black salon , which is more than she ever expected and more painful than she never knew until her scalp started to heat up, and only after she gets her perm, she realizes soon enough you cannot please everyone no matter what you do.
In “Lady On the Train,” a stranger asks a young lady, while on a train, some of the ignorant questions black women every day must endure while wearing her hair wrapped.
In “Big Ma,” a young girl’s favorite memories are tied to her grandmother whose love for her children outweighed her own welfare, something that those around her wished they did not take for granted.
In “Fieldwork Follies,” a familiar scene plays out where a young Black girl’s white friend, initially realizes their physiological differences, and in a moment of understanding, she offers her friend to touch her hair.
In “My Lil Sister Lena,” a melancholic anecdote about a young Black female baseball player who during one day at their hotel pool, her teammates, at first , in jest, and in due course almost mean-spiritedly, pointing out how unique her hair is, often touching without really asking, eventually causing her to have anxiety, leading her to pull her hair out, as a slow devolution of her psyche makes her stop caring about everything she loves in life.
In “The Spaniard,” a young man’s seemingly innocent compliment unearths a deep seeded ignorance he has for Black women as a whole.
In “Sisters & Daughters,” a woman ‘s relationship with her daughter and her sister is shaped by her own struggles of growing up in a broken home which she explores while her sister does her hair.
In “Last Angolan Saturday,” three friends on their last weekend in Angola, bond over memories, hair, and their connection to the land they stand on.
Overall, an honest assemblage of stories and narratives that elaborates and celebrates the legendary connection of Black women and their hair and ultimately paints the struggle that they endure, sometimes heartbreakingly so, in their most delicate moments. The stories by Flowers, is propitious, gifted and masterfully told. The art by Flowers, is sophisticated and rich in broad strokes. Altogether, a tome that will inoculate compassion and understanding into most readers even when the world resists the need to celebrate our differences.
Story: Ebony Flowers Art: Ebony Flowers
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy