Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Intrigued by the cover and description of Bert Ashe's Twisted: My Dreadlock Chronicles, I went to hear Professor Ashe speak and read from his book (published June 9, 2015 from Agate Bolden) at my local Books, Inc. last week. It was a fascinating reading and discussion, made all the more so by an audience full of good questions and including many of the author's family and friends.

Bert Ashe is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Richmond, his focus on late twentieth and early twenty-first century literature and culture. Twisted is the very personal account of Professor Ashe's lengthy (no pun intended) transition from his usual, "conventional," close-cropped hair to "getting locked."

It's a transition steeped with much deeper meaning, and Twisted addresses issues of Ashe's struggle with identity as a black male (owing perhaps in part, he shared, to his "sheltered" upbringing in Southern California), as well as commentary on the historical and cultural significance of, and reactions to, dreadlocks in America.

The reading itself was well-done (Professor Ashe has great pipes - unsurprisingly he has a background in radio and unfortunately does not narrate the audio version of Twisted), but the discussion was the highlight of the evening, with several people sharing their own experiences with dreadlocks.

According to Professor Ashe, he decided to make the change to dreadlocks in late 1998 when staring at himself in the mirror one morning just shy of 40 years old. A decision that, he hilariously recounted, his wife sussed out that same morning without him having said a word about it. Ashe is engaging and witty and tells a great story; Twisted tells an important story. Black hair matters. I left Books, Inc. all the more anxious to dig in to Twisted.

(In the bottom right picture, Professor Ashe is answering a question asked by the young man in the very cool alligator t-shirt - that dark green piece you see was one of many spikes growing from the spine of the shirt. It was really neat to see a little boy interested in books and culture and talking about both.)

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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