Review of Frizzy

by Claribel A. Ortega; illus. by Rose Bousamra
Intermediate    First Second    224 pp.    g
10/22    978-1-250-25962-2    $21.99
Paper ed.  978-1-250-25963-9    $12.99

In a graphic novel that takes on antiblackness and colorism, every Sunday Marlene must sit for hours at the beauty salon while her naturally abundant tight ringlets are styled into straight unfrizzy layers. Gorgeously emotive sunset- and teal-hued panels illustrate the passage of the seasons as Marlene unwillingly follows her mother into the salon yet again. Over time, Marlene begins to wonder if Mom is right, “that I can’t be my best if my hair isn’t straight.” Marlene navigates the white standards of beauty entrenched in her Dominican family and which can permeate Latine communities, internalizing racist ideologies expressed in family comments: “You’re lucky your baby’s eyes are light.” “Cara fina!” “Straighten your hair so you look more presentable.” When school bullies target Marlene because of her hair, she takes a stand, which results in afterschool detention but also in a timely visit with Tía Ruby, who shows Marlene how to care for her curls as an act of radical love for Blackness and herself. Ortega’s narrative shows the complex arc of Marlene’s emotional growth—from exuberance to sadness, self-reflection to empowerment—captured with aplomb in Bousamra’s expressive illustrations.

From the November/December 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Lettycia Terrones

Lettycia Terrones is a PhD student in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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