The best books about hair

4 authors have picked their favorite books about hair and why they recommend each book.

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Hair Story

By Ayana D. Byrd, Lori L. Tharps,

Book cover of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America

This is, to me, the “OG” of Black hair books in the last half-century. I discovered this book by accident a few years ago early one evening and ended up reading late into the night: page by page, Byrd and Tharps provide a first-rate history about natural Black hair. Learning about the hair customs of my ancestors before the onslaught of the Transatlantic Slave Trade made me proud of my curls and strengthened my resolve to continue their brilliant, necessary work on the roots of Black hair.


Who am I?

I’m an Afro-Caribbean-American filmmaker, photographer, author, and activist from Washington, DC. After graduating from Brown University with a Bachelor of Arts in French and Francophone Studies, I began pursuing a completely different career path: social activism through art and storytelling. I capture personal stories and intimate moments centering on Black liberation, immigrant justice, and women’s rights. My work is grounded in radical love, joy, and the knowledge that a more just world is possible. My award-winning documentary DACAmented has been internationally recognized, and my book My Beautiful Black Hair has been featured in The Washington Post, Buzzfeed News, and NPR’s Strange Fruit, among others.


I wrote...

My Beautiful Black Hair: 101 Natural Hair Stories from the Sisterhood

By St. Clair Detrick-Jules,

Book cover of My Beautiful Black Hair: 101 Natural Hair Stories from the Sisterhood

What is my book about?

One hundred and one Black women share their stories of learning to love their natural hair. The stories captured in the book reveal both the depth of the physical and emotional damage done to many women by relaxing their hair and trying to make it look “acceptable,” and the incredible resilience, self-love, and acceptance they gained by embracing their hair and freeing themselves from Eurocentric beauty standards.

Accompanied by beautiful and intimate photographs of each woman and dedicated to St. Clair’s little sister who was bullied for her afro, My Beautiful Black Hair is an encouraging voice for all Black women working towards self-acceptance.

Hair Love

By Matthew A. Cherry, Vashti Harrison,

Book cover of Hair Love

Hair Love is a heartwarming and gentle book about a little girl named Zuri and her father struggling to do her hair. It is filled with an abundance of humorous and joyful moments, but where the book really shines for me is in its unabashed celebration of Zuri’s hair. In a country where Black femmes are constantly being labeled as less-than, the importance of this book cannot be overstated.


Who am I?

In my kidlit writing, I am someone who almost exclusively writes more difficult topics, grounded in reality. My debut deals with the police-sanctioned murder of Black people. My second book deals with mental illness and how to bounce back from sad days in a way that’s accessible to young people. I thoroughly enjoy reading and writing more thoughtful picture books with much to say about our greater world. 


I wrote...

Sarah Rising

By Ty Chapman,

Book cover of Sarah Rising

What is my book about?

Sarah starts her day like any other day. But today isn't a day like any other day. Today, her dad brings her to a protest to speak out against police violence against Black people. When Sarah spots a beautiful monarch butterfly and follows it through the crowd, she finds herself inside the no-man's land between the line of police and protesters. Sarah is confronted with the cruelty of those who are supposed to protect her and learns what it feels like to protect and be protected.

Inspired by the protests that happened during the Minneapolis Uprising after the police killing of George Floyd, Sarah Rising provides a child's-eye view of a protest and offers an opportunity for children to talk about why people take to the streets to protest racial injustice.

Twisted

By Emma Dabiri,

Book cover of Twisted: The Tangled History of Black Hair Culture

Dabiri’s use of history and personal storytelling to deconstruct and illuminate the long story of Black hair is crucial in that it allows readers to understand that our Black hair has history. The movement against natural Black hair is rooted in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and our own structures of government have always backed the anti-blackness that criminalized, scapegoated, or invisibilized our hair; this book celebrates our natural hair but also serves as historical education, which is so important if we’re to see natural Black hair not as a stylish trend but as a necessary part of our liberation. Dabiri reminds us that, while our hair is so often used as a weapon against us, it also has the power to liberate us.


Who am I?

I’m an Afro-Caribbean-American filmmaker, photographer, author, and activist from Washington, DC. After graduating from Brown University with a Bachelor of Arts in French and Francophone Studies, I began pursuing a completely different career path: social activism through art and storytelling. I capture personal stories and intimate moments centering on Black liberation, immigrant justice, and women’s rights. My work is grounded in radical love, joy, and the knowledge that a more just world is possible. My award-winning documentary DACAmented has been internationally recognized, and my book My Beautiful Black Hair has been featured in The Washington Post, Buzzfeed News, and NPR’s Strange Fruit, among others.


I wrote...

My Beautiful Black Hair: 101 Natural Hair Stories from the Sisterhood

By St. Clair Detrick-Jules,

Book cover of My Beautiful Black Hair: 101 Natural Hair Stories from the Sisterhood

What is my book about?

One hundred and one Black women share their stories of learning to love their natural hair. The stories captured in the book reveal both the depth of the physical and emotional damage done to many women by relaxing their hair and trying to make it look “acceptable,” and the incredible resilience, self-love, and acceptance they gained by embracing their hair and freeing themselves from Eurocentric beauty standards.

Accompanied by beautiful and intimate photographs of each woman and dedicated to St. Clair’s little sister who was bullied for her afro, My Beautiful Black Hair is an encouraging voice for all Black women working towards self-acceptance.

My Hair Is a Garden

By Cozbi A. Cabrera,

Book cover of My Hair Is a Garden

Every child should grow up with a neighbor like Miss Tillie to run to for support. She’s just the right mix of confidante and responsible adult. Starting with the art on the endpapers—nine gorgeous children, each with a different hairstyle, alternating with images of different plants—and ending with vibrant colors in the garden when the little girl sees the beauty in both short and long hair, this book reminds us to take a look inside & be happy with what we’ve got—and to take care of it along the way.


Who am I?

I love increasing the diversity seen on our family’s bookshelves but also on the TBR (to-be-read) piles of relatives, babysitters, educators—everyone who might come across my little list of five books. I’m a very visual person, which is why picture books have always been my thing, even back in college when my roommate and I used to spend our study breaks in the children’s area of the public library reading stacks and stacks of picture books. It’s only natural, then, that my list should mix books written and illustrated by people of color* with my love for picture books. *with the exception of Mary Jo Udry and Eleanor Mill


I wrote...

All Kinds of Kindness

By Judy Carey Nevin, Susie Hammer (illustrator),

Book cover of All Kinds of Kindness

What is my book about?

There is so much kindness in the world! My book celebrates the special ways that kind acts can be big and noticeable or small and secret—it doesn’t matter, they’re all kind! From optimistic ideas of hope to small acts of goodwill, each page shows the heart of the story: kindness makes our world a better place. Readers are reminded of the many ways they can show kindness--from hugging someone afraid of a bug to making a card for a sick friend.

Claire Blair's Unruly Hair

By Tara Cavosie, Shereen Said (illustrator),

Book cover of Claire Blair's Unruly Hair: A Curly-Girl Tale (Brown Hair)

I have always believed that in a perfect children’s book, young readers are able to identify with the characters, perhaps even visualizing themselves in the story. This book goes above and beyond this belief. The main character has curly hair but, like most girls, thinks the grass is greener (or the hair is straighter) on all of the other girls. As Claire struggles to accept her big, unruly, curly hair, she embarks on a journey to find ways to change it. With the story’s charming illustrations and delightful rhyming text, this is a sweet story of acceptance and inclusion. But what really sets this book apart from other books is that it is available in 4 different versions! Readers can choose from African American Claire, Brunette Claire, Blonde Claire, or Redhead Claire! Wow!


Who am I?

As a former teacher, and grandmother of 13 now-grownup kids, I can’t begin to count the total number of children’s books I’ve read. A gazillion maybe? I have published 5 children’s books of my own and have read them to hundreds of classes all over the U.S. I have been an editor of children’s books for about 10 years and feel honored every time an author hands their precious manuscript over to me for assistance. I’ve read so, so many amazing books. It was difficult to name just a handful, but these books spoke to me, evoking emotions that stayed with me long after the last i was dotted and t was crossed. I hope you will feel that as well.


I wrote...

The Knot Fairy: Winner of 7 Children's Picture Book Awards

By Bobbie Hinman, Kristi Bridgeman (illustrator),

Book cover of The Knot Fairy: Winner of 7 Children's Picture Book Awards

What is my book about?

The Knot Fairy was my first picture book. It blossomed out of love for my grandchildren (and their messy hair) and was a story that had to be told. You see, everyone knows her. She visits children everywhere…And she just likes to tangle their hair! Aha! So she’s the one! Soon my ideas morphed into a series of fairy books, each featuring the pranks of a different mischievous fairy. My mantra became, “Who better to blame it on than a fairy?”

As my first book remains near and dear to my heart, I have had the pleasure of meeting many other first-time authors, each with a story that is near and dear to their heart. The following books are among the best.

Hair Peace

By Dawn Doig, Savannah Horton (illustrator),

Book cover of Hair Peace

This is a wonderful story about self-confidence, self-esteem, and being kind to ourselves. It is easy to want what others have and oftentimes comparing ourselves brings about negative emotions. This story teaches us to embrace our differences and accept ourselves as we are.

Who am I?

I know first hand the damage that bullying can have on children, It weighs heavy on your psyche, and emotional well-being. I was determined to find a way to teach children important values to fight the root causes of bullying. I found an old "sketch" and it was my "aha" moment. With continued tweaking, my bubbly hippo was born that I named Bentley. Sporting his red running shoes, Bentley has become a positive role model for children. He represents resilience, friendship, joy, and kindness. We all grew up hugging a teddy bear, but now it's time for the World to Hug a Hippo. The books I've picked below inspire me and will help kids learn the value of kindness. 


I wrote...

The Adventures of Bentley Hippo: Inspiring Children to be Kind

By Argyro Graphy, Michael Reyes (illustrator),

Book cover of The Adventures of Bentley Hippo: Inspiring Children to be Kind

What is my book about?

Bentley and his friends are en route to the Annual Fair when they hear a fuss at the back of the bus. A crowd has gathered around Toby the elephant, pointing fingers, and making fun of him when the bus finally stops, his glasses are taken from him. Surprised at this behavior Bentley assures Toby that this will be dealt with. Spending the day at the fair, A cry for help is heard in the distance. Will Bentley and the others offer their help? Or should they just keep on searching for Toby's glasses?

A sensitive and difficult topic to discuss, children will learn about peer pressure: different types of bullying the importance of being kind that they have a voice and can be heard how to be a good friend. 

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