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Reading List: Hot Comb

It’s December (can you believe it?) And I’m struggling with my committment of providing you with a little something every day, going from November 25th to December 10th, from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to Human Rights Day. I continue with my reading list of comic books by artists talking about gender […]

It’s December (can you believe it?) And I’m struggling with my committment of providing you with a little something every day, going from November 25th to December 10th, from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to Human Rights DayI continue with my reading list of comic books by artists talking about gender biases, integration and diversity. Today on the reading list…

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Hot Comb
by Ebony Flowers

The author of today’s graphic novel is not only an artist, but an ethnographer and a teacher. Her work has been featured in The New Yorker and The Paris Review, and has received such a success that is intermittently shifting from “Now Available” to “Sold Out”.

She describes it as “A Graphic Novel About Black Hair”. It’s of course much more than that, but certainly uses the topic of hair to talk about race, class, identity, gender bias and diversity.

In the fall of 1991, while in the fifth grade, I begged my mother for a perm. She always said no. My mother was an Afro-centric, red-boned woman with a beautiful smile and thick thighs. She kept her hair in a small Afro-puff that tapered along her hairline and the nape of her neck. She also wore wigs. My mother kept my younger sister’s hair and mine platted in two thick cornrows on either side of our heads, just above our ears. Relaxers were for women with bad hair – tight, nappy, and resistant kinks that never grew. Relaxers were for little girls who thought they were “cute” and “grown” and desired attention from men. They were for Black people who wished to be White. A relaxer was not for my mother’s daughters. A relaxer was not for me. I began to realize that a hairstyle was more than personal preference…

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Hot Comb offers a poignant glimpse into black women’s lives and coming of age stories as seen across a crowded, ammonia-scented hair salon. The titular story “Hot Comb” is about a young girl’s first perm – a doomed ploy to look cool and to stop seeming “too white” in the all-black neighborhood her family has just moved to. Realizations about race, class, and the imperfections of identity swirl through these stories, which are by turns sweet, insightful, and heartbreaking.

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Hot Comb explores the poetry in everyday life, all the while centering the lives and stories of black women. Ebony’s ease with the comics language is remarkable. Her black and white drawings, as well as her colour collage work, are both equally stunning.
(Peggy Burns)

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