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  • Writer's pictureMidnightAce

BOOK BAR REVIEW: TWISTED: The Tangled History of Black Hair Culture

The author goes into in-depth history and now even a braided style has meaning.

Stand-Alone: Yes

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Publication Date: June 23, 2020

Genre: Black and African American Biographies

A Kirkus Best Book of the Year

Stamped from the Beginning meets You Can't Touch My Hair in this timely and resonant essay collection from Guardian contributor and prominent BBC race correspondent Emma Dabiri, exploring the ways in which black hair has been appropriated and stigmatized throughout history, with ruminations on body politics, race, pop culture, and Dabiri’s own journey to loving her hair.

Emma Dabiri can tell you the first time she chemically straightened her hair. She can describe the smell, the atmosphere of the salon, and her mix of emotions when she saw her normally kinky tresses fall down her shoulders. For as long as Emma can remember, her hair has been a source of insecurity, shame, and—from strangers and family alike—discrimination. And she is not alone.

Despite increasingly liberal world views, black hair continues to be erased, appropriated, and stigmatized to the point of taboo. Through her personal and historical journey, Dabiri gleans insights into the way racism is coded in society’s perception of black hair—and how it is often used as an avenue for discrimination. Dabiri takes us from pre-colonial Africa, through the Harlem Renaissance, and into today's Natural Hair Movement, exploring everything from women's solidarity and friendship, to the criminalization of dreadlocks, to the dubious provenance of Kim Kardashian's braids.

Through the lens of hair texture, Dabiri leads us on a historical and cultural investigation of the global history of racism—and her own personal journey of self-love and finally, acceptance.

Deeply researched and powerfully resonant, Twisted proves that far from being only hair, black hairstyling culture can be understood as an allegory for black oppression and, ultimately, liberation.


The cover is what drew me to this title, and the fact that it comes at a time when natural hairstyles have made a comeback.

Twisted explains how even the premise of ones' hair textures and styles can be used as a form of discrimination. Dabiri does a phenomenal job of breaking down the history and cultural significance of hair textures and styles. It might challenge us to look at some of the reasons we may have trouble identifying with our natural hair.

The author has included some in-depth history and is a must-read Twisted was an engaging read with lots of takeaways. You just might think a little differently about that next braided style you get.


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