Sunday, August 01, 2010

Book Review - Thank God I'm Natural: : The Ultimate Guide to Caring for and Maintaining Natural Hair

Thank God I'm Natural book cover

I’m excited to review the book Thank God I’m Natural: The Ultimate Guide to Caring for and Maintaining Natural Hair by Chris-Tia Donaldson.

Let me start off by saying that I have been natural since 1999 and in this decade, I have sought out as much information as I could that would help me better understand and care for my natural hair. I have scoured nappy hair websites, discussion groups and blogs. I have hunted down books about natural hair. I have eagerly picked up magazines featuring natural celebrities or models. In short, I have been an ardent seeker of information.

And in return, I have been rewarded with an abundance of valuable hair care tips, personal stories of journeying down the nappy road, styling and product advice and photos to feast my eyes on.

With all that, my reaction to learning about a new book about natural hair was “What do I need another book for?” However, as it turned out, there was a lot to learn.

Thank God I’m Natural (TGIN) covers key topics like the anatomy of the hair, hair types and texture, products and styling, which you would expect to find in any hair care book. What sets it apart is the highly personal style of this book. It starts of with Chris-Tia’s story of how she journeyed down the natural hair path. After years of struggling to fit in with what she felt was society’s beauty ideal, she eventually finds freedom and happiness in wearing her hair in its natural texture.

From the introduction, she launches into dispelling misconceptions about natural hair, such as natural hair being only workable for women with ‘good’ hair, natural hair being unprofessional, hard, dry, unmanageable and please …… how men are not attracted to women with natural hair (though the last one has some truth for many Nigerian men).

We get a peek at the historical significance of natural hair starting from the era of the North Atlantic slave trade, where African still celebrated the ‘richness and beauty of their natural hair.’ However, this is a speedy overview of the history of natural hair in the United States and for a more in-depth look, you’d probably want to check out “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America” by Ayanna Byrd and Lori Tharps.

I liked the chapters on transitioning, which explains the process in simple steps, suggests hair styles and even discusses dealing with reactions from friends and family (which earlier books on natural hair often didn’t). One of my favourite parts of the book was Caring for Your Hair, which explains the rudiments of hair care from shampooing, conditioning to the role of diet. This is one of the rare hair care books that recommends specific brands for different hair brands. That was useful to me, though of course, it’s important to note that products work differently on people.

Later on, we learn how to mix up some healthy products in our kitchens, which are both cheap and nourishing for our hair.

The glossary of natural hair terms and the list of resources (websites, books) at the end point readers to sources of additional information and thus makes this book a handy guide for naturals.

The highlight of TGIN for me was undoubtedly the Natural Beware chapter, which walks readers through the ingredient list of typical hair products pointing out which to avoid and which to look out for. Knowing what the various chemicals has long been a source of confusion for me and this chapter explained what to avoid and why. For this alone section, I would buy this book.

Overall, I think that this book gives a fairly good introduction to managing natural hair and where the reader requires more information, the book provides a list of additional resources. As a long-time natural, with a solid collection of natural hair books, there’s very little that would move me to buy another book, however I think TGIN is a useful compendium of hair care, product and styling information. I think for the guide on reading and interpreting product labels alone, this book is worth owning.

It's also worth noting that the TGIN movement goes beyond the book, but also aims to build and support a community of naturals through the blog and Twitter account.

To learn more about the book, visit


Anonymous said...

After a recent decision to go natural, a friend recommended this book...I am planning to get my own copy b/c I'll definitely need it as the transition goes to the stage when I am tempted to go back to 'permed' hair...
Excellent review and it is nice to know that one is not alone on their journey...

Ore said...

Yes, it's helpful to have these resources to give you information and much-needed support.

Congrats on making the decision to go natural. It was one of the best things I ever decided to do.