The Arkansas International reviews Hot Comb

“HOT COMB” / The Arkansas International / Rome Morgan / September 30, 2019

Hot Comb, by Ebony Flowers, is a collection of poignant comics, some fiction and some non-fiction, exploring the lives of Black women. As the title suggests, hair is the unifying thread throughout these stories. In each, women have their hair relaxed, braided, or curled, an act which both symbolizes and builds intimacy and community. This is how memories are made in Hot Comb, and how stories are passed down. Hair is so bound with identity, it can trigger long forgotten memories. In “Big Ma,” the main character touches her grandmother’s hair at a funeral and is instantly transported to a memory of the time she used to spend with her before family tensions pushed them apart. Interspersed between each story are advertisements for a fictional line of hair products called, “Pinnacle.” Their hyperbolic claims are a playful critique of marketing that is, at best, comical and, at worst, harmful. In the title story, “Hot Comb,” based on Flower’s own personal experience, a young girl (pressured by her friends and magazine ads) begs her mother to let her get a perm, eventually realizing it is not the cure-all she’d hoped. Hot Comb does what all great literature does: it provides both a mirror and a window, reflecting on the Black experience while also allowing other readers a glimpse into experiences different from their own.

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