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The Quick and the Dread: An Ode to Hair

Twisted My Dreadlock Chronicles

In Twisted: My Dreadlock Chronicles, University of Richmond English and American Studies professor Bert Ashe has written about growing his hair into the long, ropy, matted hairstyle largely associated with Rastafarians, reggae musicians, Whoopi Goldberg, and a fair number of college students.

In early 1998, Ashe decided he would no longer cut his hair so that he could try growing dreadlocks. That decision was part of his urge to “go outside,” as he was “…raised to be an achiever, a little brown suburban robot: totally plugged in.” Meeting other African-Americans and bohemians in college, Ashe realized he had suppressed some of his cultural identity in the white California suburbs where he was raised.

Growing and maintaining dreadlocks is a long and difficult undertaking that was not well-documented in 1998. Ashe details his fact-finding hilariously and candidly and put me right beside him as he was being “twisted” for the first time in a hair salon.  He is similarly intimate as he checks his slowly growing hair, fights constant urges to scratch his scalp, and when he realizes the cost of maintaining his new ‘do.

Along with the account of his emerging hairstyle, Ashe includes some history of dreadlocks and other black hairstyles. Also included is commentary about African-American identity, issues, and perceptions and responses to them, all told in Ashe’s scholarly yet witty prose.

Twisted: My Dreadlock Chronicles is a funny, well-paced, and inspirational look at a part of black life that should appeal to anyone who has ever wanted to make a radical change in their look but was too afraid to start. Google Bert Ashe to see how handsome and distinguished he looks in his dreadlocks – it might be the kick in the khakis you need for your own transformation.