Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Going Natural (BOOK REVIEW)

Going Natural:

How to Fall in Love with Nappy Hair

By Mireille Liong-A-Kong

Sabi Wiri Press

Paperback, $12.00

120 pages, illustrated

ISBN: 978-0-9760-9610-8



Book Review by Kam Williams


“Five years ago… I knew nothing about my natural hair. It was that mess that grew out of my head… which was only relieved by using scalp-burning chemicals and hair-singeing heat. It was that unprofessional, bad, embarrassing stuff that, if I were to wear in public, would doom me to everlasting singledom and job failure because, surely, no employer would employ me nor would a suitable life partner love me with ‘Hair like THAT!’

Well, here I am, a lifetime later, full of NAPPtural hair and pride. I wear my hair in the state it was intended to be worn, and I have never felt freer. These feelings of joy and sky-high self-esteem that go along with the wearing of your hair NAPPturally is something born-again naturals feel the need to share.

Books like this one serve a wonderful purpose. They tell us we are not alone – that this soul-freeing experience is one also felt by other black women who had oppressed their hair and their minds into believing they were created less than perfect.

We, and our daughters, will only benefit from the healthy knowledge we pass on [that] their skin, their features and their hair are all beautiful in their own right. Black women need to celebrate their beauty, and this book is a great place to start.”

-- Excerpted from the Foreword by Patricia Gaines (pgs. 7-8)


I suppose I should thank my lucky stars that I came of age back in the day when James Brown sang “I’m Black and I’m Proud” and afros were in vogue. Even though my peasy hair might have triggered its share of teasing and double-takes after styles had changed, I’ve never seriously considered wearing it any other way than how it grows out of my head. So excuse me if I look like I spend less time in front of the mirror than Don King, but I’ve always felt okay walking around with my locks looking exactly as the good Lord intended.

I understand that the situation is a little different for sisters, nonetheless, it looks like a movement might be afoot to challenge the conventional standard of beauty which pressure African-American females to resort to straightening their hair and other complicated measures. A couple of documentaries have played a role in this regard.

First, there was Black Hair, an enlightening expose’ which highlighted how Koreans control and reap huge profits from the billion-dollar, hair care industry in most African-American communities. More recently, we had Good Hair, which questioned our commonly-accepted definition of what constitutes good vs. bad hair while offering a sobering peek at all the chemicals, expense and daily rituals involved in arriving at a relaxed head of hair.

                Apparently, some folks have been cut off for so long from their nappy roots that they might need help in reverting to a natural state. If that is the case, an excellent primer on the subject, complete with instructions, pep talks and helpful illustrations of a variety of healthy, beautiful ‘dos is Going Natural: How to Fall in Love with Nappy Hair.

The book was written by cutely-coiffed Mireille Liong-A-Kong who was born in Suriname but now makes her home in Brooklyn by way of The Netherlands. In fact, this tome was originally published in Dutch in Holland where the first edition sold out in a couple of months.

A refreshing opus advocating self-acceptance and the liberating of locks in the pursuit of happiness.

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