Thank God I’m Natural Book Review
If I had to choose one word to describe Thank God I’m Natural (TGIN), it would be “personal”. Chris-Tia Donaldson did an amazing job of weaving her own story throughout a well-researched and comprehensive guide to loving and caring for natural hair. With an unapologetic voice and an impeccable writing ability, this Harvard Law School graduate invites readers to learn from her hair journey and her realization that going natural had “much more to do with accepting who [she] was, and not being ashamed [about her] defining characteristics as a black woman”. At the same time, she maintains a respectful tone when addressing the issues that prevent sisters from truly embracing their hair. I know from experience that achieving that balance is not easy. And yet, this book does just that and lives up to its subtitle, “The Ultimate Guide to Caring for and Maintaining Natural Hair”.
New naturals, transitioners, and “relaxed” women alike will appreciate how comprehensive TGIN is. From “The Greatest Moments in Kinky Hair History” timeline to the chapter dedicated to “Getting to the Root” of hair loss, this book covers everything, with few exceptions. Readers will find the “Relaxers-How Safe Are They”, “Making Products at Home”, and the “Myths and Misconceptions (about natural hair)” chapters of particular interest. The book also includes notable resources, such as the state-by-state salon directory, which includes some international shout-outs and a list of educational and self-esteem-building books, DVDs and websites.
Like many how-to hair guides, TGIN makes several product recommendations, with the help of celebrity stylists and popular bloggers, for many natural styles and hair types: from blow-outs to locks, on dry, combination or oily hair. What sets this book apart from the rest is that it also provides readers with the tools necessary to properly assess a product’s ingredients, so that they can learn how to choose the best products for themselves. Chris-Tia also breaks down what the terms “natural”, “organic”, “cruelty-free”, “alcohol-free”, “hypo-allergenic” and “fragrance-free” really mean in the hair-care industry and suggests other books that will help readers to steer clear of natural imposters.
Aside from its content, the book is one of the most aesthetically pleasing I have seen and is well-structured. How many times have you reached for your favorite paperback black hair guide while styling your hair in a rush, only to curse yourself for ruining the cover with wet fingers? You will not have that problem with TGIN, because the cover has a beautiful glossy finish that’s donned by a beautiful silhouette of a black woman, with her head looking off proudly in the distance. Furthermore, although the “key points to remember” feature can be a bit redundant in other guides, Chris-Tia’s recaps proved to be concise and useful reminders.
The only complaint I have (and it is a small one) is that TGIN does not include some of the in-depth hair style tutorials that you would expect. Although it goes into great detail about coloring your hair and how to achieve a great blow out or different types of locks, it does not have a description of how to style the perfect twists or braidouts, for example. Instead, the author offers “Stylin’ & Profilin”, a series of pictures featuring these styles and others in Chapter 12, and instructs the reader to visit her website, www.thankgodimnatural.com, for step-by-step instructions to achieve these looks.
The first few times I visited the site, I was greeted by the same pictures that were featured in the book, and no instructions. It was only after some digging, that I found several YouTube tutorials embedded in her blog and a link that led to her YouTube channel. There, Chris-Tia has compiled other vloggers’ videos that just happen to feature some of the most brilliant styles I have ever seen. So, directing readers to a website for instructions has its perks- mainly the author has the power to upload the newest dos and techniques to her site, often. Even still, it would have been nice to include a few in the book since everyone does not have access to the internet or have time to run to the computer every time they want to remember how to recreate a style.
With that said, I still think Thank God I’m Natural is head and shoulders above the rest, because when it comes to learning to care for and love black hair, this guide is as all-inclusive as it gets. More importantly, Chris-Tia’s hair-care research complimented her inspiring story and advice about embracing yourself as you are, not the other way around. One of the jewels of wisdom she shared form her personal experience was the realization that, “Self acceptance truly is the first step towards happiness.” I honestly believe that any woman that buys this book will be much closer to taking that first step- and will have healthy hair every step thereafter!