Angela May George, How I Didn’t Straighten My Hair (and Other Life Lessons), Scholastic Australia, August 2018, 202 pp., RRP $16.99, ISBN 9781742999555
Where was this book when I was in school? Angela May George has taken the experience of a young girl from a Greek family and spun it into an utterly relatable tale of ‘finding your thing’, as Dora calls it. Theodora, as her Greek family call her, is just trying to fit in, but when your hair is wild and frizzy, and your sister is a Barbie doll, nothing feels right. Dora hilariously describes her eccentric family, including lovably daggy grandparents who love to fix things and waste nothing— she calls it GIY, Greek It Yourself— and wishes she could get the attention of schoolmate Ethan. Except he lives next door to her Yaya and Popou and she guesses Ethan would never notice her anyway.
“These people are old, rigid and tough. Unchangeable. So Greek.”
While Dora is talking about her own cultural quirks, a savvy young reader will know what she means is all our families have their embarrassing bits. We could be replace Greek with any ethnicity, and find a cultural trait we can identify with. Soon enough, Dora will discover this too. That tragedy can mean a new beginning, differences can be our similarities and a hairdryer isn’t always your best friend.
A funny (I am 40 and laughed out loud in several parts), well-told story about family and identity, How I Didn’t Straighten my Hair will be one of those books older primary readers and early teens will hang onto to and remember many years down the track. Teachers’ notes are also available to supplement study.
Reviewed by Belinda Raposo