It is not an easy task to explain what a subtle but major role hot comb plays in a life of every African American girl. But Ebony Flowers does that in a magnificent manner in her debut graphic novel Hot Comb.
Using vivid and direct language and techniques, she explores a complex topic – the relationship of a black woman with her hair. And, through her hair, with the world and people around her.
Hot Comb is a collection of concise semi-autobiographic memoirs whose purpose is to both entertain and teach.
Through 8 short stories revolving around taming natural hair, we get a glimpse into what it means to be an African American woman in America. But, at the same time, the book explores bittersweet dilemmas of childhood and growing up, trying to fit in, being a daughter, a granddaughter, a mother, an aunt, a friend…
In Hot Comb, Ebony Flowers illustrates snippets of the lives of most African American girls, full of dreaded looks at hot combs and perm solutions, while the real dramas are happening in the background.
The sketches are black and white, unrefined and somewhat rough, but that only adds on the artistic vibes and accentuates the simplicity of the storytelling. The book sometimes leaves an impression that a child has done the drawings, which makes the stories feel even more real, honest, authentic and straight from the heart.
Hot Comb is full of light, innocent humor intertwined with small tragedies. Straightforward and emotional, it makes us question what we really know about the world and people around us. Juvenile, but deep and meaningful at the same time. Light and easy to read and understand, but full of big lessons.
It reminds us (in a non-superficial way) what a huge role hair plays in our lives. Hair is personal. Hair is intimate. It is a way to express ourselves. To belong or to rebel. To show affection or interest. To judge and be judged. To accept and be accepted.
Whether you are a black woman that still has traumas from getting her first relaxers as a child. Or a white man that knows nothing about the small dramas going on in ammonia-scented hair salons.
This book is written for everyone. The graphic novel form, the lightness of the storytelling, the dilemmas we all go through at some point. Hot Comb is engaging and resonating, because most of us can easily connect with the characters, their small pains and small victories.
A definite must-read.