Hair by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

hair - short story - african hair fairy tale - chimamanda ngozi adichie

The mother cried every day.
The father had signed the agreement one afternoon after drinking a whole carton of Guinness at the club, after his friend Lugardson proposed a game of cards and wrote out the agreement that said whoever won would take over the other’s property and added that it was a joke of course and not at all legal. And so the father signed it and then lost the game. Lugardson took the agreement to court and the judge was Lugardson’s crony and he ruled that the father had truly signed away all that he owned. His company. His homes. His cars. He gave the family a week to hand over to Lugardson.
The father said, “But it was a joke! The agreement was hastily written on a receipt! It was a joke!”
But the judge ignored him. The father fell to the floor and thrashed and wept.
Later, he said to the mother, “I thought Lugardson was my friend,” and the mother told him to shut up. “Are you stupid? How could he be your friend? He has been waiting for a way to take over your fortune!” And she added that she had often felt Lugardson looking at her in an untoward way, too, which was a lie, but the mother liked to burnish her stories.
The stories she told herself now that she cried every day did not need burnishing, though, because they were true: stories of their old life when they lived in the flower-hugged house on Queens Drive, when all of Lagos worshipped them. Now, none of their friends came to their mice-filled flat where the landlord often removed their electricity meter.
But the mother’s greatest shame was her hair. It was matted, with thick clumps of natural undergrowth because relaxers and weaves were now unaffordable. She had been the toast of Lagos with her long and straight perm, and now she always wore a headscarf, even when alone.
The daughter, too, could no longer afford relaxers and so had cut her hair off, and watched in wonder as it grew back, soft and dense like wool, for she had never seen her natural hair. In their old life, as soon as her hair grew out, it had been singed and straightened.
Now it was vibrant and kinky and full. She did not comb it but lovingly untangled it every morning with her fingers.
The son, who used to work with the father in the company and now spent his days lying around limp with depression, asked that she cover her ugly hair with a scarf. The daughter was close to the son, had done most of his school assignments while he went to the clubs, and she could not understand his calling her hair ugly when it was the only beautiful thing they had left.

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  1. Ha ha! She heard a voice from her hair that told her where the agreement was, “And they all lived happily ever after.” Fairy tale fit for the 21st century indeed! 🙂

  2. Chimamanda kills it every time she gets a pen on paper
    Thank you for this review, time to go a-hunting for it
    Great blog you got here by the way!