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Hot Comb offers a poignant glimpse into black women s lives and coming-of-age stories as seen across a crowded, ammonia-scented hair salon while ladies gossip and bond over the burn. The titular Hot Comb is about a young girl s first perm a doomed ploy to look cool and stop seeming too white in the all-black neighborhood her family has just moved into. In Virgin Hair, taunts of tender-headed sting as much as the perm itself. My Lil Sister Lena shows the stress of being the only black player on a white softball team. Lena s hair is the team curio, an object to be touched, a subject to be discussed and debated at the will of her teammates, leading Lena to develop an anxiety disorder of pulling her own hair out. Throughout Hot Comb, Ebony Flowers re-creates classic magazine ads idealizing women s need for hair relaxers and products. Change your hair form to fit your life form and Kinks and Koils Forever call customers from the page. Realizations about race, class, and the imperfections of identity swirl through these stories and ads, which are by turns sweet, insightful, and heartbreaking. Flowers began drawing comics while earning her Ph.D., and her early mastery of sequential storytelling is nothing short of sublime. From her black-and-white drawings to her color construction-paper collages, Hot Comb is a propitious display of talent from a new cartoonist who has already made her mark.
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Excerpted on New Yorker.com! Featured in summer reads lists from Publishers Weekly, Elle, Bustle, Library Journal, and MS. Magazine! "Vivid and resonant... In the eight stories of Hot Comb, a mix of autobiography and fiction, the thread throughout is black women's hair -- as a source of intimacy, community and tension."--The New York Times Book Review "[A] exhilarating collection...All of the stories in [Hot Comb] confront the attitudes inscribed in the commonplace language of black hair that is wild, untamed, and raw in its natural state, and yet so fragile when fixed that it can be undone by a drop of water."-The Comics Journal [Hot Comb is] rich with both sorrow and celebration as it champions black womanhood and family ties... How black hair is treated (literally and symbolically) becomes the lens to explore both oppression and community.--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review These coming-of-age tales are all connected through that epicenter of community and beauty norms, the hair salon.--Elle Magazine In a Proustian spirit, Flowers uses the hair-salon scent of ammonia and the caresses and yanks on the scalp to evocatively dip into her childhood memories of growing up -- in Severn, Maryland and southeast Baltimore -- and to re-conjure her realizations about class, gender, and the regulation of black bodies... Hot Comb is poignant, funny, infuriating, and gorgeous. --LA Review of Books "Recounting her own hair-centric experiences alongside those of other black women, Flowers offers a rich, multi-dimensional exploration of how relationships with hair change over time. Flowers is also an ethnographer, and her passion for examining people and cultures results in stories that are sensitive to individual circumstances while tackling bigger issues faced by black women."--The AV Club "Hot Comb is several things all at once: book with enough childhood stories to possibly be considered coming of age, a collection of short stories, a graphic novel, a memoir, a debut book, an ode to Black hair and the women it belongs to."--Black Nerd Problems "This rich collection of comics brilliantly explores the ways that Black women and girls use hair care to console, construct, and criticize themselves and one another."--School Library Journal Starred Review "Flowers...offers a refreshing perspective about our hair as a means of community formation and the space that the ritual provides for us to process difficult life moments. Her self-penned drawings and accompanying dialogue illustrate the complexities of Black women's relationships with each other and our hair, following our strands through beauty salons and living rooms, on subways, and even to the grave."--Bitch Media "In Hot Comb, Flowers graphic short stories uncover more anxieties experienced by Black and biricial females, where their tresses are too curly too straight or even shaved right off. Along the way Flowers recreates classic ads to illustrate how mass media adds to the cauldron of social pressure."--Now Toronto Flowers, winner of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award, offers a series of poignant and insightful stories in a graphic novel that explores the lives of black women, the cultural complexities around their hair, and issues of race and class.--Publishers Weekly "Ebony Flowers is an important new voice... There's so much to enjoy and unpick here, great storytelling with multiple layers celebrating family, friendship, race and community."--The Quietus "Flowers is able to pack her frames with the kind of detail that brings a narrative fully alive, while her deceptively naive drawing style belies the psychological depth of her character portraits, pulling you in by stages until you feel yourself a participant in these women's travails."--Montreal Gazette "With Hot Comb, Ebony Flowers has created one that's particularly engaging, with a mixture of day-to-day eve
Ebony Flowers is a cartoonist and ethnographer specializing in qualitative research and evaluation, picture-based methods, curriculum studies, and STEAM education. She began drawing comics while earning her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Wisconsin Madison.