Professional athlete-turned-filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry is in the heart-melting business with his book “Hair Love.” Based on an idea for a short film to promote positive African-American family images in animation, “Hair Love” uses seven-year-old Zuri’s fluffy tresses to display the bond between a black father and his daughter.
Two years ago, a Kickstarter campaign to create the short made history as the most-funded short film to-date, with more than $300K raised to produce the film. Sony Pictures Animations picked up “Hair Love,” which will make its way to the big screen later this fall.
In the meantime, Penguin Random House has turned “Hair Love” into a book, with illustrations by New York Times Bestseller Vashti Harrison.
Harrison and Cherry will be at Eye See Me Books in University City on Monday (May 20) to discuss “Hair Love,” which landed on bookshelves May 14.
“I remember my dad doing my hair when I was little,” Harrison said. “It’s a thing I’m sure lots of people remember and as much as those memories are funny and silly, I look back on them with fondness. I wanted to do the same for Zuri and her Dad and make sure the love in Hair Love was front and center.”
Love is front and center – both between Zuri and her father and Zuri and herself. She sees her willful hair as an endearing trait.
“My name is Zuri and I have hair that has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils and curls every which way,” she says as she introduces herself to readers. “ Daddy tells me it is beautiful. That makes me proud. I love that my hair lets me be me!”
Hearing Zuri embrace her big fluffy hair is not lost on this reporter – who grew up in the PCJ and Just For Me era of relaxers being marketed to little black girls. Most of the advertising for hair care was geared towards us – and black women – was focused on how to “manage” the kinks and coils Zuri can’t wait to show off.
“Anytime a young child can see themselves in any type of art – be that literature, film, movies or television,” Cherry said, “it just does a great job of normalizing that look, particularly with African Americans.”
With the intention of creating curl patterns that little black boys and girls can relate to, Harrison said she took extra care with creating Zuri’s hair.
“The hair is almost a third character in the book,” Harrison said. “We worked really hard at finding Zuri’s hair texture. It was definitely not something I saw in books as a kid.”
But “Hair Love” is bigger than what grows from Zuri’s head – it’s also about a family that keeps love at its center, which lays the foundation for Zuri to love herself and her hair.
Zuri’s father Stephen goes out of his way to make sure that his “ZuZu” has a hairstyle she is satisfied with – and affirms her through the process of trying to figure out how to give her a style as special as the day she is preparing for.
“Often when you hear stories about black fathers, there’s this misconception that we are not involved,” Cherry said. “And there was an article I read recently that actually showed that African Americans are actually the most involved in our kids’ lives. I just wanted to represent that in book form.”
Vashti Harrison, illustrator of “Hair Love” will visit Eye See Me Books (6951 Olive in U. City) at 6:30 p.m. on Monday May 20.