We’re nearing the end of Black History Month, but I’ve saved this book for (almost) last. Like Monday’s offering, today’s book, Hair’s/Pelitos is a book from a Latina author who knows something about Black hair. Sandra Cisneros is known more for her adult fiction – most notably The House on Mango Street – but this book of hers is my hands down favorite.
My copy is worn and the pages are taped together, but that’s because I’ve read it to all three of my children so many times. The story is lyrically told (in English and Spanish) and is quite simple. We hear about a family who all has different textured hair. No judgement or preference is given for Carlos’ hair which is “thick and straight” or for Kiki’s hair, which is “like fur.” We just celebrate the difference and revel in the fact that this diversity of hair textures is all featured in one nuclear family. It kind of reminds me of a book I’m writing, Same Family, Different Colors. (shameless plug, but it really does.)
Same family, different hair!
I don’t even know if this book is in print anymore, but if you come across a copy, grab it. You won’t be sorry and your kids will love you…and the book.
This is our last full week of February, which means out last full week to highlight our favorite books about Black hair. Last week I dipped into the archives to find some of my favorites from years past. This week I’m going to highlight books about Black hair written by and/or for people with Black hair who might not be Black Americans. Case in point, today’s title, “Bad Hair Does Not Exist!/ Pelo Malo No Existe!” was written – in English and Spanish – to help Latinas love their natural (aka kinky) hair.
I haven’t actually seen the book. I’ve only read about it, but it sounds like a great idea. The more images young Latinas have of seeing their curls and kinks celebrated, the better. It can only lead to greater self-acceptance and confidence. Kudos to the author, Sulma Arzu-Brown, for writing this much needed book. You can read more about the author here and support her work.
So, most of you know that I’m knee deep in the research for my new book, Same Family, Different Colors. Currently I am at work on the chapter focusing on Latino families and their issues with colorism, and let me just say I feel like I’ve fallen down a Kinky Gazpacho wormhole like no other. It’s fascinating how far back the Afro-Spanish alliance stretches into the past, here in the United States, in the Caribbean, in Europe and of course, Africa. But despite the long history of cultural clashes, connections and co-opting, Black and Spanish remain unsettled in the Latino community.
So, these colonial Spanish Castas paintings didn’t help, or rather they did help give the Spanish speaking world a social hierarchy based on color.
Perhaps you read about the Univision television host, Rodner Figueroa, who recently compared First Lady, Michelle Obama to a cast member of the Planet of the Apes? Or maybe you’ve heard about the horrific treatment of Haitians in the Dominican Republic of late? Or maybe you, like me, just happened to notice that almost every famous Latina beauty in the Untied States is on the fair side of brown (see, Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek, Cameron Diaz as examples). This rejection of Blackness runs deep and wide and I’m trying to find out why. Of course there’s colonial Spain to blame, global White supremacy and good old-fashioned American racism, but still it seems like an unusual amount of effort is put forth in the Latino community to deny the Black behind the ears/the Black abuela in the closet/ and all of the other African family secrets everyone seems to have. Where is the love, I wonder? (Part of my research involves finding that Black love/Black pride, I hope.)
Make no mistake, Latinos in the United States are no more color struck than anybody else, if one could even quantify that. I just happen to be fixated on them right now because that’s where I am in my research journey. Not to mention, as a member of my own personal Afro-Spanish alliance, raising three Afro-Spanish kids, the research hits very close to home. So, that’s where I am. And that’s why I’ve been listening to this Concha Buika song on repeat. It gives me hope. Enjoy and you’re welcome.
P.S. If any of you dear readers identify as Latino and were raised /or are in a nuclear family where family members had/have different shades of skin and you’d like to share your story, whether there were/are issues or not, please send me an email to MyAmericanMeltingpot@gmail.com with Latino Story in the subject line. Thanks!
Mater Mea is one of the new links over there on the blogroll. Trust me, it’s worth the click.
Please notice over there on the right, that I’ve added some new links to my “Tastes Like the Meltingpot” blogroll; HapaMama, Mater Mea, and Multiracial Sky. These are websites/blogs I love and I’m sure you will too. I’m always trying to keep it fresh for my loyal (and new) readers who, like me, are always looking for new voices and new resources on the multiculti/ pop culture/ parenting beat. So, take a look and enjoy the new offerings. And please note, that while Afro-Viking author, Heidi Durrow’s blog, Light-Skinned-ed Girl isn’t new, she’s just come back to regular blogging after a prolonged break. I’m excited to hear from her again.
And, one more link before I go; check out this 2012 story in the Washington Post about the almost extinct Punjabi-Sikh-Mexican American community in the Southwest United States. I know, what? Yes, there once was a thriving East Indian-Mexican American community in states like California and Arizona that are only now getting attention as they face extinction. Think chicken curry enchiladas and let your imagination run wild. Yum and Yummy! By the way, before this community fades into extinction, there is a kickstarter campaign meant to preserve the culture through dance. Yep, the story of the Punjabi-Mexican community has been recreated in a show called “Half and Halves: A Dance Exploration of the Punjabi-Mexican Communities of California.” I can’t make this stuff up. America’s meltingpot is just this delicious.
I am so excited that I am getting the chance to take part in an initiative to highlight the lack of focus on women and women’s issues in the news media and really in society at large. Public Radio International (PRI) has spearheaded this initiative called Across Women’s Lives and has partnered with Blogher to help get the word out. Blogher is how I get involved.
My job is simple. I get to highlight all of the amazing journalism PRI and its media partners are creating that highlight women all over the world. From the PRI website, here’s a sense of what they are trying to do. ” PRI’s The World and our partners will travel across the globe to share stories of what it takes to change the status of women. We’ll look at how initiatives that raise women’s status affect their communities and countries.”
As a female journalist myself, I know I always interpret the news and tell stories from a woman’s perspective, so I am flabbergasted by statistics that show “only about 24 percent of all news subjects talk about women in any way and only six percent of news stories highlight gender inequality.” That’s unbelievable to me, yet not really. *sigh*
But PRI is doing something about it in a big way, and I’m ready to lend a hand and a voice. As I said, my job is to simply show you all what great stories are being produced by PRI about women all over the world. Of course, this story about the plight of Black people in Honduras caught my eye. I have never heard of the Garifuna culture before listening to this story. Now I must add it to my list of “Kinky Gazpacho” communities of color in Spanish-speaking countries.
I’m showing my age here and my deep, abiding love for cheesy pop songs when I confess that there was a time when Jon Secada was the man of my dreams. “Just Another Day Without You” also known as “Otra Dia Mas Sin Verte” was my jam. I mean, think about it. A beautiful brown-skinned man who seemed to be at once both Black and Spanish, of course I loved him and his soulful, Latin-infused, pop music. (By the way, he’s Cuban, which explains the Black/Spanish cultural mix.) And now, on the 20th anniversary of the release of “Just Another Day,” Mr. Secada has written a memoir, aptly titled, “A New Day.” The promo materials say the book is a reflection on his journey from humble refugee to Grammy winning superstar. I’m going to be honest in saying that I probably won’t pick up the book, but I will absolutely enjoy a trip down memory lane and listen to Just Another Day — in English and Spanish — and fall in love all over again.
Are there any other Jon Secada fans out there? If so, enjoy! And de nada.
A Casta painting that shows all the different permutations of ‘race’ based on color in colonial Spanish America.
Hi Meltingpot Readers,
Since today is Round-Up Wednesday and since it seems I can’t escape the stories about colorism in the Latino/Brazilian communities, I thought I’d just share two stories that really made me realize how much the new book I’m working on is needed. My new book is all about colorism in Black, Latino, Asian and interracial communities. Clearly I can’t write it fast enough.
Check out this story that appeared on the Huffington Post Latino Voices yesterday. It’s a personal essay written by a Dominican-American male who tells of his racial coming-of-age in New York City. In the essay he admits that even though he looks Black, he’d do anything he could to not be identified as such, including perming his hair. It’s deep.
And then turn your attention to this Salon.com article about a Brazilian pop star who had to go through a light-skin makeover before she was deemed ready for primetime. The story goes beyond Brazil in looking at what pop stars the world over have to look like and the answer is White. White. White.
I know this is reality. Heck, that’s why I’m writing the book. But doesn’t it just seem crazy that people can only see beauty in white skin? What is that about in your opinion? I’d love to hear your thoughts. And I mean really, I’m taking notes.
It’s Wednesday. Time to see what the world wide web is offering up for those of us who like our news both colorful and tasty. Here’s what I have for you:
1. You know I’m obsessed with Black hair, but I’m sooo not the only one. There’s a new movie, screening at the Toronto International Film Fest called Pelo Malo (translation: bad hair) about a cute little boy in Venezuela who believes straightening his curly hair will change his life. It’s a movie about identity and family by Venezuelan director, Mariana Rondón. Check the trailer and tell me what you think.
2. I don’t have time to watch TV these days, but I still heard all about Miley Cyrus’ controversial performance on the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday night. Apparently Cyrus decided to completely shed her child star status and reinvent herself as a sex-crazed maniac. Some people interpreted her new attitude and style as being “Black.” I watched her bizarre and distasteful performance and could do nothing more than shake my head and feel sorry for her parents. Thankfully, author and advice columnist Demetria Lucas was able to analyze Cyrus’s act with insight and clarity on The Root and made some really good points that I agree with 100 percent. Check it out here.
3. And finally, I think everybody is aware that we are celebrating the anniversary of the legendary March on Washington. To some, that march feels like ancient history, but many of the people who took part in that historic moment are still alive and can truly put the progress or lack thereof of American race relations and civil rights in perspective. The Huffington Post actually spoke to some of those people – the ones who actually marched – and compiled their memories in a nice video.
What are you reading about these days, dear readers? If it’s nice and tasty, please share.
My name is Lori L. Tharps but around here I go by Ms. Meltingpot. I am a Black woman married to a Spanish man, raising two brown boys and a beige babygirl. I am an author and a professor. I like books, babies, Black hair and things that make my inner meltingpot smile. Take a look around and maybe you'll find a reason to stay.