Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Readers Share HAIR Stories... and a Winner!

Earlier this month I sent out an e-newsletter asking people to send in their hair stories to win an autographed copy of CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship. 
If you aren't yet a subscriber, here is the Let's Talk about Hair! issue, and here is the link for you to subscribe and receive news and special opportunities 2-3 times a year!
I'll announce the winner below... but first, here's a sampling of some awesome hair stories I received. Thank you!

 Growing up in South Africa, the laws of apartheid controlled every aspect of my life. Although my friends and I were too young to understand the dire consequences of apartheid, we knew something was wrong—very wrong. As a way of dealing with our discomfort, we joked about the methods the government used to classify people according to race. We pushed rulers or pencils into our hair to see if they would stay in. I sported a mane of long, fine auburn hair, so I was “safe.” But if you had thick curly hair, the ruler didn't fallout, "proving" you were not white—maybe. Little wonder we were acutely embarrassed when the bus drivers asked our olive-skinned, frizzy-haired friend if he was qualified to ride on the “whites only” bus. Another joke, circulating among my friends, was that ignorant censors had banned the novel, Black Beauty, assuming that the title referred to a black woman. As I recalled these incidents in my memoir, I saw more clearly than ever that bigotry is nothing to joke about. - Claire Datnow

Here’s my hair story. My curly hair comes from permanents. In 1982, my mother paid for me to have a permanent when the Richard Simmons hair phenomenon was popular. I liked the curly hair so much that I have had permanents with a combination of gray and pink curlers ever since. I know that I’ve given a lot of musical cues with a flick of the curls. Such is the power of hair.    - Craig Hultgen

  • My mom gave me a home perm and a kid at school called me the Bride of Frankenstein. Years later I learned my husband was called Frankenstein, so it all worked out. :)
  • When my enormous 80s bangs were named "the wave" by Mr. Delgado, my Spanish teacher.
  • I asked my mom for a 2-inch trim, and she kept trying to straighten the jagged line she'd cut, taking 6-8 inches off. I actually laughed and made a quick trip to a walk-in salon.
  • The time my hair was extra short and I thought I'd trim the back with a razor...and shaved a lovely bald spot, just in time for the first day of school.
  • When I didn't know what wedding veil to get, so I cut off all my hair to make the decision easier.
  • For the last six months, I've been trying to work with my natural wave, which shows up in humid places but is tricky to work with in New Mexico. I've adopted "the Curly Girl Method" (a real thing) and am trying to love the sometimes wild look that is my natural hair.  - Caroline Starr Rose
MY hair is as fine as frogs hair, whatever that means!  - Jo S. Kittinger

My hair is very neglected. Before I joined the Army and went to basic training I cut my hair very VERY short. It was so short I could barely make a little faux hawk with it. I don't regret it because I didn't have to put my hair up in a perfect but like the other girls. But man did it take forever to grow out. Since that time, I rarely ever cut my hair. Currently, it's been almost a year since my last trim. It's almost down to my butt again and I love it being long!! #longhairforlifeclub - Rachael Dykes a.k.a. Reese Bailey

When I was 12, I wore my hair short, in a sort of Peter Pan cut. One day while walking down a street with my best friend, Terri, I heard a voice call out behind us, "Ooooh, Terri, who's your new boyfriend?"

I let my hair grow out from that day forward, and though I have periodically worn shortish hair, I insist that it falls at least to my shoulders (even though I finally grew boobs. 😊)  - Cathy C. Hall

I change my hair often, have all through the years, and now as you might have seen, I grew it out a bit, and got a perm. So far I like it a lot. But, here is a picture from my hippie days long ago, long straight hair and yes, we had a hammock and lived at that time by a big park. And, at one time, I had an afro perm, loved it too until it grew out! - Linda Baie, who blogs at TeacherDance

The first thing I notice about a person is their hair.  Isn't that strange because I know so many people notice eyes.  One times I was with a group of African American students touring Birmingham. Most of the group was through visiting the Civil Rights Institute and we were sitting on the walls outside waiting for those inside.  I felt a brush at the back of my head. It was a tiny hand of the African American boy sitting next to me.  He said he liked the way my hair rippled in the back!  So I asked him if I could touch his hair. It was soft though it didn't look soft.  That was a moment I will always remember.  He and I appreciated our differences. - Linda Fryer


I wish to share a "poem" by my son Jay when he was 5. We encouraged him to talk about different subjects (of his choosing) and then I would write what he had to say. One day he described the hair of an African-American nursery school friend. I had not thought about this until I received your email.

          My Hair

     My hair is blond
     If I pick it up it feels soggy
     My friend Chris' hair feels harder
     His hair drops back in the same place

This may sound trite but at the time to me it was his recognition that people look different from one another and what some of those differences are...including the color and texture of their hair. - Elsie Ruby

Don't miss this video of Leslea Newman reading her beautiful poem "1955-2001: A Hair Odyssey"

... and now, the winner of the autographed book, as selected by our cat Maggie:

Fun fact: Monique debut picture book HONEYSMOKE, about a biracial child learning how to describe the color of her skin, will be released in 2019! 

Congratulations, Monique! And thanks to everyone for your support and enthusiasm for CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR?, which, thanks to you, has already gone to a second printing. :)


  1. Love reading all the stories, Irene. Imogene's visits are Tuesday and though she is young for all the poems in your book, she asked me last night to read a few more. Just sayin'! It feels that there is a part of everyone that wants to talk about things that are important, and often that includes hair!

  2. Loved reading these hair stories. I think you should have a hair photo collage and we could all contribute. I've had an interesting relationship with my hair, short since I cut off my long hair in college. I loved seeing Linda's long hair, hippie days pic. My brother had an afro for a few years.

  3. BIG congrats, Irene, on the second printing of CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? And I loved the hair stories! (You know, they should make a musical about hair... :-) )


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