Monday, December 28, 2015

Reads for Writers: Twenty-seven Women Writers Provide a Masterclass

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

As a reader, I always love finding books that appeal to me. As a writer, I am twice as pleased when the authors also provide masterclasses within their books.

          Masterclasses take place when performance artists and musicians work one-on-one with students. Writers don’t generally have this option, but I have found some books to be masterclasses for characters, backstories, plots, settings, voice, and/or creativity.

The essays in Me, My Hair, and I: Twenty-seven Women Untangle an Obsession edited by Elizabeth Benedict address not only straight and curly, long and short, gray or colored hair, but the cultural and political mores that pressure women to make sometimes uncomfortable choices.

These essays from different points of view are eye-opening. The writers’ descriptions, emotions, and voices are real and universal and passionate.

I loved Maria Hinojosa’s essay “My Wild Hair” on page131 which is as much about her hair as a love story.

“…I let it be as wild, long, and curly as it is.

And yes, I do this for love. Because I love myself more like this and because this way I show my husband my love, not in words or deeds, but in hair.” (page 138)

“Why Mothers and Daughters Tangle Over Hair” by Deborah Tannen on page 105 is a funny tribute to all the “helpful” comments from moms whether their daughters’ hair is on display or hidden under a head scarf.

Serious topics are covered as well:

Baldness due to cancer is addressed on page 9 in “Hair, Interrupted” by Suleika Jaouad. “Chemotherapy is a take-no-prisoners stylist.” (page 13)

On page 19, “My Black Hair” by Marita Golden reveals the pain and struggle Black women deal with when making hairstyle choices as “hair is knotted and gnarled by issues of race, politics, history, and pride.”

A religious tradition of shaving a bride’s head the morning after the wedding is the focus of Deborah Feldman’s essay “The Cutoff” on page 147. “And yet, my shaved head did not buy me full acceptance either, although it purchased a kind of tolerance that, for a while, seemed like it would be enough.” (page 152)

“While it’s easy to make light of our obsession with our hair, very few of the writers in these pages do that. We get that hair is serious. It’s our glory, our nemesis, our history, our sexuality, our religion, our vanity, our joy, and our morality.” (Introduction, page xvii)

Women’s hair means much more than it appears.

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