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Hot Comb Heirlooms

School: Springfield Renaissance School

City/State: Springfield, MA

Grade(s): 11

Format(s): Booklet

Subject(s): English Language Arts, Social Studies

Type(s): Argument/Opinion

Writing Assignment Description

This essay combines personal experiences with the pressure on the author as a young black woman to have “good hair” with a broader analysis of the heritage of slavery, oppression and white conception of beauty.

The essay was published as a stand-alone booklet by a school writing group called “Apples on a Lemon Tree (ALT) which is a collective of writers and artists from the Renaissance community publishing individual pieces of student work, collaborations/split issues, and Apples Annual, a year-end anthology of student work.”

This work is a final draft, created with peer editing and critique.

To see another work by the same author as a first grader click here.

How This Writing Can Be Useful

  • Emotionally powerful essay that uses personal experiences to illuminate deep questions about what it means to be black and female in America
  • Figuratively connects the personal trauma of painful hair straightening with the painful heritage of slavery and oppression, using searing metaphor (e.g., the closing line is: “But for right now, I’m still a black girl, and I refuse to be left blind and burning anymore.”)
  • Raises troubling questions of where our notions of beauty come from
  • The voice is direct, pure, unapologetic, unadorned and authentic. The message is honest and brave.

Relevant Resources

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • I can write narrative texts about real or imagined experiences using well-chosen details and effective event sequences.
  • I can produce clear and coherent writing appropriate to task, purpose and audience.
  • I can use the writing process to focus on what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.
  • I can use technology to produce, publish, and update writing products in response to ongoing feedback, new arguments, and new information.
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