Book Review: Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips, and Other Parts

This post has been sitting in my drafts for a while. It is a transcript of a YouTube video that I released over a year ago. It is a review of two books that talk on the Black experience, why I found this books healing and why we need diverse stories from diverse writers.

Take a moment to watch the video or read the transcript below.


On braiding the Nappy Essence
a poem by D

Tuesday, sweet Tuesdays,
brings beauty brings you,
I come to you in the mornings
adrenalin thoughts loss.
life’s path tangled.
On my head is an afro Asiatic proof
on my mind and nappy proof of perplexity,
and only your solution can cleanse it.
You brush away my cares.
You comb through my confusion.
My thoughts are millimeters from the strain.
But in your whole there is no pain.
You all my youth with understanding mom,
greasing my scalp with your acumen mature,
you give me a sort of African pride,
something that comes from only inside,
you are so good, so sweet, so wonderful.
I pray that my soul is not condemned for gluttony,
rich hair, nappy hair, braids, and Quintessence.

Hey, yall, hey, it’s mo here, like, subscribe, all that good stuff. Today, I was supposed to give you a book review of the book, You are your best thing, vulnerability, shame, resilience, and the black experience by Tarana Burke; but that’s not gonna happen. I’m going to tell you about the book some more. And then I’m going to tell you why I won’t be reviewing the book. So this book is basically a collection of stories of black voices telling their stories and relating the experience, I did get this book as a free trial on Audible, which presents another challenge because sometimes I have difficulty with audio processing. However, I did listen to the introduction, which is a conversation between Brene Brown, and the author. And I got quite a few nuggets from that introduction, which I will be sharing with you today.

When I went through the first chapter of the book, I had read a sample of that chapter. And it’s a black gentleman, telling us the story of his relationship with his mother. And it starts off with his grandfather’s leg being amputated. And I was just overwhelmed by the pain in his voice, I could feel it so deeply. And I’ve been overwhelmed for quite some time about a bunch of different things. And I decided that it probably wouldn’t be good for my mental health, to listen to these people. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the book. And a lot of people benefit from hearing stories that are similar to theirs. I’m saying that right now where I am in my life. It’s not the right book for me, but it might be for you.

I think it’s important for black people to share their stories and for black people to hear the stories of other people. And the introduction highlights why. It kind of gives us the motivation behind the book. And so I’m going to tell you about that right now. Basically, we start off by saying that one of the greatest tradegies, one of the greatest tragedies of trauma, including white supremacy, is that vulnerability becomes risky, sometimes even dangerous, and life threatening.It’s not like if you’re black, all of a sudden, you don’t need vulnerability, you still need it. But the culture makes it unsafe for black people to be vulnerable. And the idea is that being vulnerable is part of our humanity. And so we need to be able to be vulnerable in order to heal the trauma that we’ve experienced. And so this book, by sharing black people’s experiences of vulnerability, their resilience and how they overcame shame allows them to portray the expansiveness of black humanity.

And that idea made me think of another book that I read in college, which we’ll get to in a minute. But first, I want to say that in this conversation, Brene Brown and Tarana Burke, were saying that editing the stories, they were quite overwhelmed by it. And being I was already overwhelmed by the idea of the book. And both of these people are trained psychologists, I believe, all of that together, made me decide to not listen to the audiobook and that means I don’t have a review for you today.

To give y’all A Brief History, when I went to the Coast Guard Academy, my hair was natural like it is now but I ended up with a relaxer for reasons we won’t get into. I was class up to 2007 and class of 2008 there was a black young lady who came with her natural hair and I was determined that I would take care of her hair so she didn’t have to go through what I went through. And I would do her hair for her. I guess every week I barely remember. the poem I read in the beginning of this video is a poem she wrote to me to say thank you for helping her with her hair. And you heard the poem, y’all. This simple act of me just doing her hair once a week and y’all, it was usually very often, six cornrowa going back, I used to rock the four cornrows going back. And some of the white kids used to call them jail braids, but we just didn’t tell my mother. And one day she saw a picture and she was like, you went to school with your hair looking like that. I was like, I did what I had to do.

I always made sure her hair was taken care of. And then I taught her how to do it herself, and she didn’t need me anymore. And that made me really happy. So she wrote the poem. A classmate of mine went from relaxer to natural and I taught her how to do her hair as well. And she got me this book. This book is Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips, and Other Parts edited by Ayana Bird and Akiba Solomon, foreword by Sonia Sanchez. This work is a collection of essays. It has some essays by actually some pretty well known names, like Jill Scott, Tracee Ellis Ross, Iyanla Vanzant. it kind of reminds me a little bit of The Vagina Monologues, the way these women were just telling their stories, telling us about the insecurity, how they dealt with different pressures growing up, it really let me see the breadth of the black experience because you inherently know that not all people are experiencing what you are. But when you read a book like that, you learn that what they went through might not be exactly what you went through, but there are similarities and you experience similar feelings. And also it gave me compassion for what other people were going through because I never had body image hair, any of those things issues.

Yall I thought Thunder Things were a good thing because where I come from, thunder thighs meant you could run fast I feel yall probably heard me say that. And you could run fast and your thighs made you run fast. And when people heard you coming, they were afraid. I’m sure I’ve told the story before.

Anyways, let me read the back of this book y’all. Even Kelis is in here. It says “Candid, witty and insightful. Naked is a provocative collection of essays that captures what today’s African American women think about their bodies from head to toe. In it black women of all ages, sizes, hues and backgrounds share their thoughts on such issues as hair texture, skin color, weight and sexuality in a world that may sometimes find their distinctive features too African, or even sometimes not quite black enough. Naked follows these women on their path towards embracing their beauty and loving the skin they’re in no matter how big or small their butts, how dark or light your skin or how kinky or street their hair.

I really think everyone should read this book. I haven’t read it in almost 20 years, and I have really fond memories of it. I also think that if you can you should really try “your best thing vulnerability, shame resilience in the black experience”. And I’d like to know have you read any of the books I spoke about? But also Are there any books about black experiences black joy, black acceptance, black healing that you’ve read, share it in the comments down below. I would love to hear from you. Thank you so so much for watching. Bye

Transcribed by

About Monetta

*200hr certified yoga teacher *owns and operates Sayana Yoga in St Lucia. *2015 St Lucia Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award

I would love to know your thoughts