Much Hairdo About Nothing with Marshalette R. Wise
August 21, 2014
NHH: What inspired you to write this book?
MRW: I use to wear a wig when interviewing for jobs. I was fearful that my natural hair would prevent me from getting hired. I interviewed for a teaching position abroad and got the position. However, I wore my natural hair on the first day of work. My boss called me into her office and asked why my hair looked strikingly different. I shyly admitted to interviewing in a wig. She told me that if I wanted to keep my job that I would have to put the wig back on. I walked back to my apartment holding my head down, hoping no one would notice my tears. I crawled on the floor, still in my clothes and shoes, where I slept for the remainder of the night. My mind was preoccupied with thoughts. Should I sacrifice my job and fly back to America? Do I wear a wig to save my job? By morning, I had reached my decision. On my way to work, I stopped by a dumpster and threw the wig inside. I subconsciously understood that my decision would impact “nappy-headed” women and girls everywhere. That experience motivated me to write this children’s book. As an adult woman, it deeply impacted me. I could not fathom how young girls would handle going through the same thing. I wanted to do something to help them learn to appreciate and value their hair.
Unfortunately, my dilemma was not unique. Many women are aware of how their hairstyles (perm, weave, natural) can both advance and stifle their careers. The good news is I didn’t get fired. Nevertheless, my contract wasn’t renewed for another year.
NHH: How much of the book is realistic?
MRW: I think the entire book is realistic. The main character, Morgan, is like many black girls who worry about their hair. It is difficult to build the self-esteem and self-image of our young girls when they are being stigmatized for, doing something as simple as, wearing their natural hair.
Tiana Jackson, 7-years old, who was told by her school administration that her natural hair did not look presentable and to cut it. Watch YouTube Video
Vanessa VanDyke, 12-years old, who after notifying administrators that she was being bullied for her hair, was told to either cut and shape it or face expulsion.
Danielle Cook, 13-years old, who was prevented from attending a college preparatory because of her dreadlocks.
Much Hairdo About Nothing is a tool that creatively opens the dialogue with “nappy” girls and let’s them know that they too have “good” hair.
NHH: Why is your children’s book different than other books?
MRW: Much Hairdo About Nothing is both educational and fun. It is 68-pages of a compelling story and detailed illustrations coupled with a broad range of activities. It has reading, writing, listening, and speaking activities. There are science, matching, history, and dictionary lessons to promote learning across the board.
The book includes a crossword puzzle, word search, and word scramble. It also has drawing and coloring worksheets as well as a set of paper dolls to cut out. The answer keys are in the back of the book to check for understanding. Much Hairdo About Nothing (Father-Daughter Dance) is the ideal book for younger readers, parents, and teachers. Parents can engage in the reading process and assist their child in completing the various activities. Teachers can order book sets and utilize the activities for a student-centered, whole-class lesson. Younger readers will enjoy the experience, at home or school, while being encouraged to take
ownership of their learning.
NHH: How did you come up with the title?
MRW: The title is inspired by the name of Shakespeare’s famous play, Much Ado About Nothing. The title signifies unnecessary concern over something. I substituted the “Ado” for “Hairdo.” My book essentially explores two very important relationships for a young girl: the relationship she has with her father and her hair. Both can impact her. I chose Much Hairdo About Nothing as the title and Father-Daughter Dance as the subtitle.
NHH: Did you learn anything from writing your book? What was it?
MRW: I learned how the topic of hair also affects other races of women. White or Asian mothers in interracial unions will have to, at some point, confront the issue of their biracial daughter’s hair, especially if their texture is “nappy” or “kinky.” They may not know how to have that discussion. My book can greatly benefit them as well.
Marshalette R. Wise is from Tuskegee, Alabama.She has a B.A. in English Language Arts Education from Tuskegee University, M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and a Minor in African Diaspora Studies from the University of Minnesota, and CELTA from the University of Cambridge – Teaching House NYC. Marshalette is the founder of WISE Scholars Foundation, a nonprofit organization with the mission of assisting socioeconomically disadvantaged and at-risk youth with dropout prevention, school completion, and college attainment. She believes in “Preparing Today for Higher Education Tomorrow.”