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A Library Journal Best Social Science title of 2022
Black women continue to have a complex and convoluted relationship with their hair.
From grammar and high schools to corporate boardrooms and military squadrons, Black and Afro Latina natural hair continues to confound, transfix, and enrage members of White American society. Why, in 2022, is this still the case? Why have we not moved beyond that perennial racist emblem? And why are women so disproportionately affected?
Why does our hair become most palatable when it capitulates, and has been subjugated, to resemble Caucasian features as closely as possible? Who or what is responsible for the web of supervision and surveillance of our hair? Who in our society gets to author the prevailing constitution of professional appearance?
Particularly relevant during this time of emboldened White supremacy, racism, and provocative othering, this work explores how writing about one of the still-remaining systemic biases in schools, academia, and corporate America might lead to greater understanding and respect.
About the Author
Lyzette Wanzer is a writer, editor, and workshop instructor. Her work has appeared in more than twenty-five journals, magazines, and books. She has presented her work at conferences across the country. Wanzer is a contributor to The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays and Lyric Essay as Resistance: Truth from the Margins. She lives in San Francisco.
"Trauma, Tresses, and Truth offers vivid vignettes of individual and collective episodic memory. There is an urgent need for collective healing that invites Black and Brown women to tell their stories from the crown down. Trauma, Tresses, and Truth seeks to unseat and decolonize our natural hair stories, redirecting entire eras of grief into rediscovery, rebirth, and reclamation of our ability to choose our hair stories." —Dr. Afiya Mbilishaka, founder and CEO of PsychoHairapy
"Trauma, Tresses, and Truth is abundant with important messages, historical truths, and acts of everyday heroism and defiance in the face of the worst kind of racism, the kind that refuses to recognize itself. Contributor Dr. Raina León asks, 'what is freedom? is there a peek of it in this history?' Through a weaving of deeply honest, emotional stories, these survivors of cultural trauma provide an intellectual and emotional laying on of hands so that the next generation can heal and find their freedom. This powerful collection is an important addition to minority studies and a necessary contribution to the process of Black women taking back their crowns." —Tara Lynn Masih, editor of award-winning The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays
“With care, passion, honesty, and insightfulness, Trauma, Tresses, and Truth takes readers on a beautiful journey about Black women’s hair. Each chapter in this thought-provoking and at times heartbreaking collection invites the reader to learn and unlearn about Blackness, white supremacy, class, and surveillance. A must-read for all invested in understanding what the ongoing subjugation of Black women looks like today.” —Treva B. Lindsey, PhD, author of America, Goddam: Violence, Black Women, and the Struggle for Justice and Colored No More: Reinventing Black Womanhood in Washington, DC
“This anthology reminds me that my natural hair—and the painful and joyful stories accompanying it—are worthy of deep exploration. This collection beautifully incorporates personal stories, historical research, and discussion questions to guide readers into untangling their own personal hair narratives. This collection is a necessary read for citizens and lawmakers alike who seek fair and just natural hair legislation. I highly recommend it to Black women, everywhere.” —Chanté Griffin, journalist and natural hair advocate
“The story of Black women’s relationship to our hair comes with many layers. It’s beautiful like a fresh set of box braids, relaxer-burn painful, and somewhere in between. Through the experiences of amazing Black women writers, Trauma, Tresses, and Truth tells the complexities of Black hair culture with authenticity and heart. Each page gives the reader an insightful blend of powerful storytelling and prose with social and historical context, all making Trauma, Tresses, and Truth another crown in the literary discourse of Black women’s hair.” —Jeneé Darden, journalist and author of When a Purple Rose Blooms
"These collective episodes explicitly expose the struggles that women of color endure in the many places where their natural hair has been weaponized against them. These real-life emotional experiences increase awareness about a form of systemic racism that is shocking to many; it also challenges readers to respect all hair types, a healing quest." — Library Journal
"These memories, these exasperations, serve to weave camaraderie into each tale" — Bookworm Sez
"...a beautiful, textured body of work that teaches, inspires, and conveys a nuanced yet common reality" — The Rumpus