Hot Comb (Paperback)
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 “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. Hot Comb is a propitious display of talent from a new cartoonist who has already made her mark.
About the Author
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.
Excerpted on New Yorker.com! Featured in summer reads lists from Publishers Weekly, Elle, Bustle, Library Journal, and MS. Magazine!
"These coming-of-age tales are all connected through that epicenter of community and beauty norms, the hair salon."—Elle Magazine
"[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 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, author of One Hundred Demons
"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 comics. I could see this book as assigned reading in college classrooms and as a bookclub pick for groups looking to engage with current cultural issues in a new and exciting way."—Lori L Tharps, co-author of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America
"An intimate and truthful collection of stories from an exciting new voice in comics."—Jillian Tamaki, author of Boundless
"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, editor of ELEMENTS: Fire An Anthology by Creators of Color
"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, author of Beauty in a Box: Detangling the Roots of Canada's Black Beauty Culture