Reviewer Gordon Osmond : Gordon is a produced and award-winning playwright and author of: So You Think You Know English--A Guide to English for Those Who Think They Don't Need One, Wet Firecrackers--The Unauthorized Autobiography of Gordon Osmond and his debut novel Slipping on Stardust.
He has reviewed books and stageplays for http://CurtainUp.com and for the Bertha Klausner International Literary Agency. He is a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Law School and practiced law on Wall Street for many years before concentrating on writing fiction and non-fiction. You can find out more about Gordon by clicking HERE
Author: Bert Ashe
Publisher: Agate Bolden (June 9, 2015)
In this free-wheeling, often dispersive memoir, Professor Ashe uses his feelings about, experiences with, and assessment of a hairstyle as the focal point for his thoughts about the tensions felt and struggles faced by him and his fellow African Americans in dealing with their status as a minority community within the United States for the past couple of decades.
The hairstyle in question is/are (depending upon whether or not you accept the author’s grammatical take on the matter) dreadlocks—a steroidal twisting of hair somehow related to, but clearly distinct from braids and cornrows.
As the interior text of this book is devoid of illustration, I supplemented my knowledge of dreadlocks by watching a YouTube video of the process and found it to be even worse than I had imagined. Admittedly, I was raised in a generation when young girls were warned of pulling ponytails too tight for fear of damaging hair and scalp. From this perspective, production of dreadlocks struck me as nothing short of tortuous and murderous. And my concerns for hygiene were hardly allayed by the author’s description of the shampooing schedule involved. Itches that dasn’t be scratched completed the picture of a procedure that one would have to have very strong political, social, or philosophical convictions to endure. It would seem that Professor Ashe has the lot.
The author talks a bit about hair tossing. With dreadlocks, particularly long ones with beads attached, a la Steven Wonder, this could be perilous. But when Rita Hayworth perfected the gesture in Gilda, the only casualties were any man within a ten-mile radius.
Professor Ashe’s courting, succumbing, and final murdering of dreadlocks makes for fascinating reading for the most part. His writing style is richly endowed with imaginative images, abundant word plays, and general erudition and imagination. At times imagination borders on drug-induced incoherence, but no matter. Flights of fancy often become a bit bumpy.
More concerning is the struggle between the author’s natural and highly gifted playfulness and his all-too-familiar politically correct agenda, which is often lacking in both perspective and humor. Does one have to be white to find more fun than fury in Al Jolson’s performance of Mammy, Betty Grable and June Haver’s performance of Darktown Strutters’ Ball, and even Judy Garland’s mostly mulatto rendition of Swanee? Does one have to be black to approve the Wayans Brothers whiteface performances in White Chicks? As far as I know, gays don’t have their leather underwear in a twist about rainbow-colored Afro wigs. Is a dreadlock wig really morally equivalent to a safari? I guess we’ll have to take Professor Ashe’s course on the subject to find out. If he’s as interesting in the classroom as he is in Twisted, it should be a gas.