Some books make us feel seen and for me, that is what Don’t Touch My Hairdoes. As a mixed-race person with tightly coiled hair like the author, who grew up in the far reaches of Scotland in an environment that doesn’t sound too dissimilar to Dabiri’s Ireland, I was able to engage with it in a unique way. But I would urge everyone to read Don’t Touch My Hair. You may not agree with everything she writes, but the author is undeniably snappy, bringing out humour and no small amount of sass. The first title of its kind, with fresh ideas and a vivid sense of purpose, Dabiri’s book is groundbreaking.
Dabiri often has a winning conversational style (“Whoa”, “win”, “lol”, “boom”), but as the book progresses so her writing heats up, and it reaches boiling point when she recalls how Kim Kardashian, sporting Fulani-inspired braids, credited Bo Derek (who wore cornrows in the 1979 film 10) as the inspiration... The strongest current running through her book is the charge against the propagandists at the height of Europe’s imperial aggression in Africa who claimed the continent lacked civilisation and “history”. She provides a rebuttal to this myth with a beguiling excavation of African fractals, architectural patterns that have been repeated over centuries not just in the shape of dwellings and the configuration of village huts but also in elaborate hairstyles.
In her excellent and far reaching book, Emma Dabiri takes us on a journey around slavery, cultural appropriation, science, mathematics and decolonisation and all via hair... There are personal, intimate moments in this exploration of black history, culture and hair such as stories of Emma’s childhood in inner city Dublin... I’m hoping for another book from Dabiri with a longer chapter on men’s hair and more memoir. I’m glad there was so much hope in this book on an otherwise bleak subject but Dabiri found much to celebrate from female entrepreneurship to black natural hair movements and black self-empowerment.