What moves us, in turn, is the artist’s own attention to meticulous visual detail in her comics, charting the steps of the hair care process, a replication of her mother’s effort.The New York Times
AN AUSPICIOUS DEBUT EXAMINING THE CULTURE OF HAIR FROM THE RONA JAFFE FOUNDATION AWARD-WINNING CARTOONIST
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 story “Hot Comb” is about a young girl’s first perm—a doomed ploy to look cool and to stop seeming “too white” in the all-black neighborhood her family has just moved to. In “Virgin Hair” taunts of “tender-headed” sting as much as the perm itself. It’s a scenario that repeats fifteen years later as an adult when, tired of the maintenance, Flowers shaves her head only to be hurled new put-downs. The story “My Lil Sister Lena” traces the stress resulting from being the only black player on a white softball team. Her hair is the team curio, an object to 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. Among the series of cultural touchpoints that make you both laugh and cry, Flowers recreates classic magazine ads idealizing women’s needs for hair relaxers and product. “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 Flowers’ stories and ads, which are by turns sweet, insightful, and heartbreaking. Flowers began drawing comics while earning her PhD, and her early mastery of sequential storytelling is nothing short of sublime. Hot Comb is a propitious display of talent from a new cartoonist who has already made her mark.
Praise for Hot Comb
Hot Comb is a relaxed and relatable experience. I honestly could not put it down after reading the first page. With a charming mix of humor, heart, and a hard dose of reality, this book is a must read for all.Taneka Stotts, ELEMENTS: Fire An Anthology by Creators of Color
[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... Vibrant and immersive.Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
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 Spring 2019 Notable Graphic Novels
These complex stories about the ‘ordinary’ lives of black girls, mothers, sisters, aunties, grandmas, nieces, and friends are extraordinary. What Ebony Flowers brings to comics is fresh and absolutely groundbreaking. I’ve been waiting for a book like this forever.Lynda Barry
In Hot Comb, Ebony Flowers has created an original collection of haunting short stories about the Black experience that go far beyond hair and beauty. Issues of race, class, gender, and family bonds are all explored with Flowers' vivid and lively illustrations.Lori L Tharps, co-author of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America
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
An intimate and truthful collection of stories from an exciting new voice in comics.Jillian Tamaki, author of Boundless
These coming-of-age tales are all connected through that epicenter of community and beauty norms, the hair salon.Elle Magazine, Best Summer Reads 2019
Hot Comb will take every Black woman back to her first relaxer—not just the process itself but the peer pressure to "perm" and the unexpected reactions in the aftermath. Flowers shows us why it's always about more than just hair. What a delightful read!Dr Cheryl Thompson, Beauty in a Box: Detangling the Roots of Canada's Black Beauty Culture...