Zara's Wash Day

Know Your Hairitage: Zara’s Wash Day By Zenda M. Walker, Illustrated by Princess Karibo (2021) – paperback



Recommended ages: 0 to 9

Zara’s Wash Day is a truly refreshing and educational read! It tells the semi-autobiographical story of a girl who learns “how the hair texture and cultural styles of people of African descent are linked to a colorful and layered ancestral story.” I encourage readers to first read through Zenda M. Walker’s author’s note and dedication at the back of the book. She pens a heartwarming letter detailing her inspiration for this story.

Zara isn’t looking forward to wash day, a weekly cultural ritual for many people of African descent that involves detangling, drying, and styling their textured hair. And she especially doesn’t like the painful detangling part! Zara doesn’t understand why she has to go through this weekly process that requires hours of care and attention. It’s after this comment that Zara’s mom takes her on a cultural journey to explain why textured hair requires special care and how the styles she adorns serve as a connection to her African ancestors:

Dearest Zara,
Every day is special when you have curly hair.
Each strand tells our family’s story,
And requires tender, loving care.

Her mom goes on to describe various hairstyles and how they are connected to her African roots:

When I weave small cornrowed braids
On your head that fall to each side,
Add a center braid adorned with beads or cowrie shells,
We are celebrating the West African Fulani tribe.

By the end of the story, Zara feels empowered and prideful! Sporting her braids and curls, she’s ready to take on the world.

I’ve never come across a “hair book” quite like this. The description of hairstyles in tandem with their intricately detailed illustrations sets this book apart from the others about Black hair. From tight rope patterns to dread locks, the attention to detail by illustrator Princess Karibo is unparalleled. I found myself staring at each illustration, in awe of her creations!

The story together with the backmatter serves to make this book a powerful educational tool not only for children with African roots but for all children. Walker provides a glossary of terms, detailing even further the specific hairstyles and African tribes mentioned in the story. She also includes a brief section related to Black hair and its place in American History. I was happily surprised and impressed by the abundance of information included in this book. Walker’s care and attention to detail in compiling this book makes it worthy of inclusion on every child’s bookshelf.

Take-away message: For children of African descent, Zara’s Wash Day helps them appreciate their kinky, coily, or curly hair. By learning that the plethora of hairstyles is connected to bold and fierce African tribes, Black children should feel nothing but pride and self-confidence when wash day comes around and their hair is transformed!

TAGS: textured hair, female-lead, family, mother-daughter, self-published, paperback

About the Author:
Zenda Walker is an author, licensed cosmetologist, and beauty marketing executive. Originally from the Bronx, New York, she enjoys traveling, spontaneous dance parties, exploring and developing beauty trends, and chocolate desserts. Zenda is a co-founder of Bounce Mobile Fitness Club, LLC. – a fitness business specializing in rebounding workouts. Zenda resides in Los Angeles, California with her daughter Zara Olivia.

About the Illustrator:
Princess Karibo is a self-taught illustrator from Nigeria, West Africa. She enjoys working on traditional art by day and digital art projects by night. She also has an affinity for romance novels. For more information about her work, visit www.princesskayart.com.

About the Designer:
Anthony Foronda is an internationally recognized award-winning illustrator & designer. He has been chosen in American Illustration, Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles Illustration West, Awarded in Alternative Pick Awards, and the International Luerzer’s Archive’s 200 Best Illustrators Worldwide Biennial. HIs work stands out with color & texture and is conceptually thought provoking. He has worked in the editorial and advertising markets. Anthony lives in rural Putnam, CT USA, New England.

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