Frizzy Review

By | Friday, October 21, 2022 Leave a Comment
Maybe you've read the official summary/description of the book. Maybe you heard one of the creators talking about it online. Maybe you just saw a book with the title Frizzy showcasing a girl with huge frizzy hair. Regardless, you saw something and thought, "So it's about a brown girl with frizzy hair? And she just has to figure out how she wants to style it? How am I going to relate to that? How is that even a story?"

Well, let me tell you first that for women and girls who have hair like that -- hair is A THING! Like, a lot of people spend time making their hair look nice, but the VAAAAAST majority of hair care products out there are made for people with naturally straight hair. They not only don't work for "frizzy" hair, but in many cases, using them actually makes their hair worse. And, since the VAAAAAST majority of barbers and stylists primarily work on naturally straight hair, they don't have the knowledge or skills to cut or style it properly either. They'll wind up recommending products and treatments and cuts that simply will not work. For generations, these people were essentially left to their own devices and had to pass knowledge about styles and products via the never-reliable grapevine. And even when some information came through intact, it may only apply to certain subsets of "frizzy." Only in the past 10-15 years or so, with the rise of online video, have people been able to directly show what works with what types of hair and under what circumstances. So yes, hair absolutely is A THING!

Second, the book ultimately isn't about hair anyway. That is indeed the basic story, but the underlying story -- what it's really about -- is breaking traumatic family-related cycles. It's about recognizing why people keep doing the same things their parents and grandparents did, even though it no longer makes sense or doesn't apply universally just because it applied to a previous generation. It's about recognizing and addressing your own personal traumas so that you don't inadvertently pass them on to your kids.

It's obvious Marlene is the protagonist right from page one and clearly we're supposed to empathize with her. But even if that weren't obvious right from the start, her family -- almost literally every single person in her extended family -- is an ass. We see virtually all of them at her cousin's quince and, with precisely two exceptions, I hated all of them by page 30. Not just, "Hey, this character is a jerk" but "I really hate this character!" Even the people who were well-intentioned were awful. It's no small feat to make me hate an entire family like that so quickly!

Problems with Marlene's hair eventually gets her in trouble at school, and she's punished with detenion and "hard labor" with her aunt. Fortunately, Aunt Ruby was one of the two aforementioned exceptions. In discussing their hair -- and how that landed Marlene in trouble -- Ruby shows Marlene how to care for it, much like the old grapevine I mentioned before but with more direct, hands-on training. But more, Ruby begins to explain why so many women in their family work to have "good hair" and why the underlying reasons can be difficult to discern. (And good grief, I do not have the time or space here to unpack everything around "good hair" if you don't know what that means already! Just know that it's explained sufficiently in the book.)

Although Marlene's mom is initially furious at Ruby for "ruining" Marlene's hair, Marlene finally opens up to her mom about the reasons it's important to her. And she even correctly points out why her mom stopping wearing her hair curly after her husband died years earlier, a revelation that she herself hadn't really even reflected on consciously before. The book resolves with a hair party among the three of them, all with a better understanding of why the others think and act the way they do.

Generational trauma is absolutely a thing, even when the parents don't intend for it to be a thing. I think many people aren't self-reflective enough to sit back and sort out how and why they are the way they are. Somtimes it takes other family members piecing together bits and pieces of stories for a complete picture to emerge, and you have to get into an arguement with someone before they finally listen to some blunt truths they don't want to confront.

Not every parent will respond as understandingly as Marlene's mom did when presented with a revelation about themself. Certainly, many will deny or avoid the observations entirely. But maybe some will take the time to consider some facet of their personality -- something triggered by years-earlier indoctrination or varying degrees of trauma -- that they can learn and better themselves from. So yeah, as a white guy who used to have straight hair until I largely went bald a decade ago, I totally still relate to this story. Claribel A. Ortega and Rose Bousamra did an excellent job crafting this story, and I'd recommend it regardless of what kind of hair you have. The book came out earlier this week from First Second and retails for $12.99 US.
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