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Tina's Reading Books

Genre fiction lover:  Romance, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Urban Fantasy

Natural Beauty

Natural Beauty - Leslie DuBois

This book is equal parts humorous chick-lit and a loving ode to the journey a black woman takes when deciding to wear her hair natural.


As odd as it sounds, for some black women, wearing your hair the way it comes out of your head can come as a bit of a culture shock.  History, Popular culture, media images, and even corporate culture have collided and created a 'wall of sound' that has insidiously shaped our notions of what is beautiful, desirable and an appropriate way to look.  And, not surprisingly, those notions very rarely fell in the favor of the black woman. 


So we have adapted and conformed.  What woman does not want to look beautiful by the standards of her society?  What person can refuse to consent to a mode of dress or appearance in order to secure a job and fit in?


For women in general, the personal is very often the political.  For black women that personal as political can often settle squarely on her head.


In comes this book which uses the main character's Mahogany's transition from a life of relaxers and weaves to a natural style as a framing device and metaphor for her changing love life.


Each chapter heading is a phase of her transition and begins with the chapter 'Relaxed."  When we first meet Mahogany, she has been in a seven year relationship with her Indian boyfriend Vinyay (Vinny) and he has yet to propose.  This bothers her.  What bothers her more is that she has never, not once, met any member of his family.  The obvious reason for this is that he can't tell his family about his  black girlfriend.  That is true and it isn't.  It is more than just being in an IR relationship on the down low. One of the reasons I like this book so much is that is is never just that simple.


In the course of the book we realize that Vinny does love Mahogany but he is too immature to own it.  We learn that his family isn't really the problem.  The racial thing it too hard for him to deal with. 


What comes next is reminiscent of that song in that commercial 'I'm gonna wash that man right out of my hair.'  Mahogany, in a moment of in vino veritas, realizes that the time, money and effort she spends on her hairstyle -- a style that she was maintaining because Vinny liked it so much -- was not worth it.  So she does the Big Chop.


Thereafter each step in her new hair journey becomes another step away from that relationship and toward another one.  Not only that, but in learning how to care for her natural hair -- something she has never had to learn before -- she is also learning how to care for her heart. 


Hence, we meet her grumpy co-worker Trent.  Trent and Mahogany have this great hate-hate relationship that morphs into an uneasy detente and then into attraction.  Another In Vino Veritas moment shifts their relationship irrevocably.  I was totally on Team Trent here.


The book is told in Mahogany's first person POV and she is hysterical.  I just loved her.  She has exactly the type of life outlook I want all my best girlfriends to have. 


But beyond the romance, the book is excellent in a bunch of little touches.  Mahogany & Trent's workplace and boss are a hoot (they celebrate Arbor Day in her office with a costume party, mandatory).  I'd love to work for that guy!  Mahogany's first date post Vinny breakup is with a guy whose name all the characters riff on (I thought it was a typo in the book at first, it wasn't).  And his outlook on life...well... Mahogany realizes she needs to run far away.    Trent's family was wonderful and I love how Mahogany just cold invited herself to their Thanksgiving dinner.  This all in addition to some good, real life practical hair advice for the woman going natural.


This was a fantastic book.  And by the time Mahogany had gotten to her full on Angela Davis fro', I was cheering for her and Trent.


I only wish it were longer or we got an epilogue or something.  It is categorized as a novella and kindle page count has it at 173 pages.  It felt meatier than most novellas and I don't feel like I got shortchanged in the story.  But still {{whines}} I wanted more time with them. {{/whines}}.