Though it may not yet feel like it (especially if you’re experiencing an April snowstorm at present), it is actually spring. Slowly but surely, the world will soon be coming into bloom. So, what better time to debut a new children’s book called My Hair Is a Garden?
Written by textile artist, clothing designer, children’s-book illustrator and now author Cozbi Cabrera, My Hair Is a Garden follows a little black girl’s journey from being teased about her hair to self-acceptance and celebration of its uniqueness through being taught to care for it. As Cabrera tells The Glow Up:
The idea is, you know, we love up our daughters, and we do everything we can to help them understand who they are, and then we send them out into the world, and the world has its own ideas about our daughters. And oftentimes, that kind of collision course produces a little bruising. So I wrote this book with the understanding that so many girls enter into environments that don’t support their esteem in any way, and a lot of it does revolve around hair.
So, these are things that we think about that [for] other cultures don’t necessarily come into play. ... The idea is a child who’s been teased at school over and over again, and one day she just had enough. And so she decides to take matters into her own hands and get some help with her hair.
That help comes in the form of a guide named Miss Tilly, who uses the garden as a metaphor to help her young charge understand that all hair is beautiful, as long as you cultivate it properly. Says Cabrera:
We understand that things are unique and beautiful in the garden, and it’s not like you have to compare one thing to another and say that “this is beautiful because it’s long and cascading, and this is not beautiful because it’s short or laying on the ground and [has] different behaviors or properties.”
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Cabrera initially wrote and illustrated My Hair Is a Garden 10 years ago, but only recently did the book find a home with award-winning children’s book publishers Albert Whitman & Co. In the decade since she began the project, Cabrera has herself become mother to a now 8-year-old daughter. The artist tells us that a recent relocation from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Evanston, Ill., found her daughter facing many of the same issues her young heroine does:
It’s really interesting because we moved to Evanston—in New York, there’s such a tremendous diversity that hair taunting doesn’t come up—and so, early on, she suddenly had people saying to her “Your hair is not silky like ours,” and using words like “ugly” to describe it. And I thought, “Wait, this is crazy. Is this still happening?”
Unfortunately, it is still happening, making the April 1 release of My Hair Is a Garden more timely than ever. And Cabrera doesn’t stop at just trying to help black girls have a better understanding of the beauty of their hair; the artist—who is often stopped on the street and asked about her own naturally textured crown of seemingly elaborate twists and coils—has included a few home recipes to help readers better care for their own natural hair.
If the hair is indeed a garden, this spring, Cabrera is here to help our love for it grow.
The Glow Up tip: My Hair Is a Garden is now available at Amazon.com and other retailers.