Bell Hooks Lets Her Hair Down

Author, intellectual and social critic bell hooks (she spells her pen name in lower case) has written for adults about her life, the black arts movement, feminism, love and many other topics. But her latest work is for a different generation. She has just published her first children's book, Happy to Be Nappy. CBS NewsThis Morning reports.
The 47-year-old feminist writer was born Gloria Jean Watkins but later adapted the pen name "bell hooks" from her maternal great-grandmother. She spells it with lower case letters to promote her message.

In Happy to Be Nappy, hooks writes, she says, of the "joy and beauty of nappy hair."

"It's for all kids because we're a culture that really loves straight hair," she says. "This is a book to say: Kids with kinky hair, no matter who they are, should love themselves just the way they are."

Having grown up in rural Hopkinsville, Ky., hooks fondly remembers being called "girl pie" by her mother. She dedicates her book "to all the girl pies who sweeten my life."

Happy to Be Nappy is a celebration of life, she says, pointing out that many times in children's books oriented toward black kids, a lot of playfulness is taken out.

"It's as if the world says, 'Oh, their experience is harsh, and we've got to prepare them for the harsh reality,'" she explains.

"In fact, if we give our children sound self-love, they will be able to deal with whatever life puts before them," she says.

She enjoys the warm memories of her and her sisters doing each other's hair while chatting, laughing, telling stories and enjoying each other's company, she says.

In her book, hooks writes about hair being "soft like cotton, full of frizz and fuzz, a halo, a crown, smooth or patted down, pulled tight, cut close or just let go."

Each page has wonderful watercolor images of black women and girls of different complexions, hair lengths and hair textures.

Illustrator Christopher Raschka paid special attention to detail. Each character was illustrated with a different flair and facial expression depicting pride, pleasure and attitude.

And the hairstyles are anything but plain. There are styles that swoop, ones that spike into the air and some that are just natural. The colors are warm and celebratory; the styles, fun and exaggerated.

Hooks acknowledges: "We have different black experiences. And I'm willing to say a lot of black children have had tremendously negative experiences around their hair. But that doesn't necessarily mean that that has to become the defining reality," she says.

This book is a different work from Nappy Hair, Carolivia Herron's whimsical autobiography, which recently stirred controversy.
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Happy to Be Nappy
"That's the sad hair book," hooks offers. "This is the happy hair book. This is the book where everything is being said that is positive.

"It doesn't move from saying your hair is a problem; this is why you should like it. This book says your hair is wonderful just the way it is," says hooks.

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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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