As we continue to embrace our natural kinks, coils, and curls, there seems to be an equal number of institutions trying to keep us from doing so. Corporations large and small have fired black women because of their hair and the armed services had an ongoing back and forth about banning natural hair styles.
But these news stories go from being frustrating to heartbreaking when they involve our children. In 2009, a teacher cut one of Lamya Cammon’s braids in half in front of her classmates. Lamya was 7 years old at the time. Things haven’t improved much since then: Black boys and girls are still threatened with suspension or expulsion for wearing fros, cornrows, braids, and locs.
It’s a sad reminder of what mater mea mom and author Ibi Zoboi said of raising her daughters: “They’re little brown girls; I won’t do anything to crush their spirits because the world will do that for them.”
Thankfully, our children have us to reflect a positive view of their beauty to them, and books like Ariane Williams’ Jamie Loves Her Natural Hair. (Ariane is the founder of natural hair site BlackNaps.org.)
Inspired by news stories of young girls being bullied because of their natural hair, the rhyming picture book follows Jamie, a little girl with a swirling cloud of springy brown curls, as she reflects on all the things she loves about her hair.
What Jamie loves most is her hair’s versatility—she can wear it in a puff that reminds her of cotton candy or in beaded braids that create her own personal concert when she moves and dances. Sometimes Jamie’s mom blow dries it straight for her, but her curls are never too far away.
Illustrated by Shida Davis, Jamie, and the world she lives in, is bright and happy. She has a smile on her face in almost every page, a subtle but invaluable way to show that there is beauty in wearing one’s hair however they please.
The only time the reader sees some hint of sadness on Jamie’s face is when she encounters images outside her community that reflect beauty as having straight hair.
“I know my hair looks different from most of my friends,” she says. “It even looks different from the kids on my favorite TV show Caroline’s Journey Begins. It looks nothing like Polly’s, from my favorite book Polly Does It Again.”
But the next page shows Jamie hugging her hair with a closed-eye, contented smile, saying, “But I still love my hair from my coily roots to my curly ends.”
“There are too many sources telling young girls of color what is wrong with them, instead of telling them they are beautiful just the way they are,” Ariane Williams says. “I have been reading my book to [my daughter] since she was about 4 months as a way to encourage her right from the start.”
And in a society that tries to dim our glow, having reminders like this one goes a long way in fostering the confidence young girls need to face the world and change it, too.
Pick up a copy of Jamie Loves Her Hair on Amazon.
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