I stopped using chemicals in my hair in 1999. Up until that point, I had gone to great lengths to chemically straighten my hair. When I decided to do the “Big Chop”, I had no idea that my unprocessed hair would become so curly and so full. Had I looked at some old photographs, I probably wouldn’t have been so surprised.
Several months after my big chop, my hair took on a life of its own, growing and curling about my head. Whenever I would visit my grandmother, she would say, “Hilary, when are you going to fix your hair?!” To which I would reply, “Gram, there’s nothing wrong with it. It looks just like yours!” And indeed, my grandmother wore her own variegated gray curls in loose Afro about her face. She would then pat her curls and say, “And I’m a good looking woman!”
This became our running gag over the years, even when Gram was much older and infirm. She would still find a way to pat my head and tsk, tsk, tsk at my hair, despite the fact that hers, now more white than gray, was a mirror image.
Gram passed away in August of 2012, just two weeks after I had last seen her. Our last exchange about when I would fix my hair would be our last. At her funeral shortly thereafter, I listened to family, friends and neighbors share stories about Gram and all of the advice she dispensed. Somehow, I found myself at the front of the room, beside her casket, un-spooling my own story from my memory. I talked about how I was her youngest grandchild, how I had just visited with her and my three curly haired girls. I described our back and forth about my hair, so familiar and funny, so part of our interaction as much as any hug and kiss. I shared a piece of my grandmother that my father, his siblings, the extended family, didn’t know about and was glad to do so. Her curls are my curls and my curls belong to my girls.
The constant refrain of, “When are you going to fix your hair?” spun around and around in my head until I put pen to paper and created Maggie Sinclair. Maggie loves her natural hair and all of the versatile ways she can style it. Her grandmother, however, sees her hair as something that needs to be fixed. This story, rooted in my own experience and crafted with love, shows how a young girl uses her creativity and imagination to celebrate her lovely head of hair while sharing a lesson about self-love.
The book is written and the illustrations are complete. Publication is moving forward. Links to purchase the book will be posted once they are available. In the meantime, stay connected and join in our activities!