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December 29, 2020


#Ireland Don’t Touch My Hair

by NancyElin



  1. Ms Dabiri’s book begins with her upbringing in Ireland,
  2. moving through to pre-colonial West Africa,
  3. to the slave trade in America.
  4. She discusses the market dominance of beauty products
  5. how black hair is valued and misunderstood.
  6. Hair texture and style have no bearing on one’s ability to succeed.
  7. Black hair has been and continues to be judged by white standards
  8. …used as a tool to discriminate.



  1. Black identity is told through the prism of African hair.
  2. Historically, the way you wore your hair
  3. signified your marital status, your tribe, your class
  4. …and your position in society.”
  5. Black hair is much more than just hair….!
  6. Hairstyle  is an embodied visual language.
  7. Ms Dabiri gives White people this advice about African hair:
  8. “…our hair is spiritual. Look but don’t touch!” (pg 47)


  1. Strong Point:  Ms Emma Dabiri KNOWS  what she is talking about!
  2. She attended the prestigious school  SOAS University of London .
  3. SOAS is one of the world’s leading institutions for the
  4. study of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.


  1. Strong point:  this book made me look more closely at art….
  2. …and the hairstyles represented in it!


  1. Strong point:  I thought I was going to get a book just about hair
  2. but Ms Dabiri has touched on many themes relating to hairstyles.
  3. Themes of personal identity,
  4. cultural traditions, modern aspirations,
  5. and social and political issues.
  6. She deleves deeply into her own Yoruba roots
  7. … Benin Africa.


  1. Strong point:  Personal…describing life in Ireland as a black girl:
  2. “…an environment characterized by a pervasive and
  3. constant refrain of black inferiority...
  4. I was bombarded with it.” (pg 88)
  5. But Ms Dabiri  did add some humor into her story….
  6. “being black and Irish in Ireland
  7. …was to have almost unicorn status” (pg 5)


  1. Weak Point: I was not very interested  pages 103-122
  2. …about A’Lelia Walker (1885 –1931)
  3. She was the only surviving child of Madam C. J. Walker,
  4. popularly credited as being the first self-made female millionaire
  5. promoting hair products for  African-American women.
  6. I skimmed this section.
  7. Chapter 5:
  8. …honestly, not interested in Shea Moisture,
  9. Madonna or Kim Kardashian’s  cornrows.


  1. Strong point:  chapter 6 
  2. Ms Dabiri discusses complex geometric shapes used in braiding.
  3. Braiding was used also in ‘intellignce networks’.
  4. Hair was used a a form of mapping
  5. …a means of communication.
  6. The hairstyle was a form of  signal
  7. …so escape could happen in blocks of slaves.


  1. Strong point:  TITLE!!
  2. …Solange on Spotify   “Don’t’ Touch My Hair”
  3. Somehow these lyrics just give expression or emotion to
  4. …the deep feeling  of African hair.


Don’t touch my hair
When it’s the feelings I wear
Don’t touch my soul
When it’s the rhythm I know
Don’t touch my crown
They say the vision I’ve found
Don’t touch what’s there
When it’s the feelings I wear

Last Thoughts:

  1. This book was more scholarly than I anticipated.
  2. Ms Dabiri has completed her PhD and her expertise is apparent.
  3. She uses a mixture of scholarly and popular sources.
  4. But Ms Dabiri has produced a very readable book about
  5. looking at indigenous cultures from a new perspective.
  6. She  emphasizes the strengths of African society in divination,
  7. architecture design, entrepreneurship and…so interesting
  8. the unchanging tradition of hair braiding!
  9. #AbsoluteDelight  to read!
Read more from Ireland, non-fiction
6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dec 30 2020

    I loved this, my review is here if you’re interested – and it might make my Books of 2020, though I haven’t formed my list quite yet … full of personal but also scholarly detail.

    • Dec 30 2020

      Thanks so much…I will have a look at the link!

  2. This sounds interesting, her growing up in Ireland. In 2020 I read Donal Ryan’s Strange Flowers and in it an Irish girl disappears from her family and after years with no contact returns. It would be a spoiler to say more, but his treatment of a black character in Ireland didn’t feel credible to me. I wonder what Emma Dabiri would have made of it.

    • Jan 6 2021

      I’m trying to read voices of diversity for #ReadingIrelandMonth21.
      I do have to search for some writers!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. #Reading Challenges 2021 | NancyElin
  2. Reading Ireland Month Week 2 Round-Up!

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