Review: Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Review by Destyn Land

What makes hair good or bad, and who gets to determine which is which? In our society many
young Black girls are told that their hair is much prettier or sometimes even told that it’s only
pretty if permed and straightened. The process of straightening and perming can do much
damage to Black hair over time. Although natural Black hairstyles are seen as more acceptable
today; jobs still discriminate against Black women who choose to wear natural hair. This
causes many girls to grow up hating their hair, and seeing its natural state as being ugly,
unprofessional, or wild.

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry addresses this issue by telling the story of a family that loves
their natural hair. The 7 year old protagonist Zuri finds joy in exploring all of the cool things
that her hair can do. Whether she’s wearing an afro, braids, or sporting two puffs, she loves
every coal, kink and curl in her head. Zuri has a special day coming up. She wants to wear a
perfect hairstyle and wants to give her hair a professional touch. Usually, a professional touch
would likely mean that Zuri gets a perm to straighten out her hair. Instead of “perfect”
meaning straight, the perfect style for Zuri is an Afro-mohawk. This style does not involve a
hot comb or perm, but merely her hair being “parted, oiled, and twisted.” Throughout the
book, Zuri’s mother and father consistently affirm how beautiful her hair is.

The book also explores a beautiful relationship between a Black father and Black daughter. It
actively challenges the narratives that paint Black fathers as absent, unknown, or distant
figures. In Hair Love, Zuri’s father cooks her breakfast, takes her to school, and goes on bike
rides with her. Zuri feels proud every time her dad tells her that her hair is beautiful. Her father plays an active role in helping her come up with her perfect hairstyle, and even helps her put it together.

Hair Love is a beautifully illustrated picturebook that empowers Black girls to love their hair. It encourages them to reimagine all of the cool things that they can do with it. The book gives new meaning to the #GirlDad movement, as it portrays a Black father with tattoos and dreadlocks, as present, sensitive, and active in every aspect of his daughter’s life. Hair Love is a
book that many young Black girls will relate to. But it will also inspire all young readers to love
themselves for who they are, despite what people may say or think.

Hair Love. (2019). Matthew A. Cherry and Vashti Harrison (illus.). Kokila.

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