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7 Books Proving The “Pelo Malo” Mindset Wrong

If you’re a Latina with naturally curly hair, chances are you’re familiar with the toxic term “pelo malo” which translates to “bad hair” in English. Not only are those words harmful and inaccurate, but they also speak volumes about Latin America’s race relations. For centuries Latinos have been conditioned to believe that “whiter” is better. Our obsession with Eurocentric beauty standards led many of us to believe that the paler our skin and the straighter our hair—the better. Straight hair for centuries was a cultural beauty standard. Fortunately, we’re now living in a day and age where millennials Latinxs are all about embracing our African and indigenous ancestry and part of that means loving and rocking our natural curls. Here are 7 powerful books that will inspire every curly haired girl to love her natural hair!

Peinate: Hair Battles Between Latina Mothers & Daughters by Raquel I. Penzo

This powerful book explores the complex relationship between Latina mothers and their daughters with natural hair. It’s filled with poems, short stories and essays about the fights, conflicts, insecurities, identity issues and lack of acceptance that’s often experienced. Warning: This one gets deep.

Pelo Bueno by Yoldana Arroyo Pizarro

This adorable children’s book is written in Spanish and touches on Afro-Puerto Rican identity and the importance of building children’s self-esteem and teaching them to love their natural hair. A great one to read to the little ones while also teaching them some Spanish!

Pelo Bueno: A Day In the Life of a Nuyorican Poet by Bonafides Roja

This book features a collection of poetry that explores Afro-Puerto Rican identity and diaspora, issues of oppression within the Latinx community, cultural preservation and the Latinx immigration experience in the states.

Bad Hair Does Not Exist/Pelo Malo No Exist by Sulma Aizu-Brown

This empowering children’s book emphasizes the importance of individualism and the harmful bullying term “bad hair” that a lot of Black and Latinx children are constantly exposed to even within their own communities. The mission behind this read is to help children to embrace their hair regardless of the Eurocentric beauty standards that are constantly pushed on them. Because bad hair really doesn’t exist.

Victoria Mariah’s Absolutely, Positively, Incredibly Horrible Bad Hair Day by Shahtia Gay-Hairston

If you have a little girl in your life who is struggling to love her curls—read her this! The book explores a young girl named Victoria who is on a quest to find the right concoction for perfect hair while also trying to embrace the curls on her head. It teaches important lessons in self-love and self-acceptance. This is everything!

I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

This whimsical story is actually a classic in the natural hair community. It celebrates the beauty of natural and curly hair through a little girl named Keyana who learns to take pride in her own hair. An important and empowering read for any young black girl or Afro-Latina. We love it already!

I Am Enough by Grace Byers

The illustrations in this picture book practically tell the story itself. Written by Empire actor and activist Grace Byers and illustrated by artist Keturah A. Bobo, this fun read teaches young kids that they really are enough—regardless of what others might think or say. The beautiful images are captivating and the lyrical ode style writing will keep any kid’s attention. A perfect Christmas stocking stuffer for any little curly haired girl in your life.

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