[REVIEW] Wash Day Diaries, by Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith

The purple cover of Wash Day Diaries, depicting a diverse foursome of Black women smiling, posing and embracing, lays on a table surrounded by hair gel, a boar bristle brush, a big tooth comb, and other Black hair tools

(Buy this book here)

Hey, fellow readers. How’ve you been? I took a little break, and for a while wasn’t sure I’d be back in a hurry. This is partly because my Day Jobbe is eating my brain, and although steps are being taken to vanquish the zombie source of income, for a while I just haven’t been able to concentrate on reading the way I like to. I’ve said before that when I’m struggling with focus I turn to poetry but even that wasn’t doing it for me. I went through about a month of opening books, closing books, reading a chapter, reading a verse, then wandering off and executive dysfunctioning all over the place.

Enter graphic novels, specifically Wash Day Diaries, which finally managed to blow the cobwebs away and open up a little resonant space so I can think. I read and reviewed this just before it won the 2022 LA Times Book Prize for Best Comic Book/Graphic novel, where Rowser and Smith were not only the first Black women to win, but the first Black women to even be nominated for the award.

It’s fitting, though. This is a Black Lady Comic Book and I’m entirely here for it.

In thoughtfully rendered panels, four friends in New York City navigate family, relationships, mental health and work through their group chat, usually while someone is doing their hair.

I see myself in Davene, Tanisha, Cookie and Kim. I also see a lot of my sistahfriends from over the years. This is an ode to the way that Black women care for each other through friendship, and there’s a lot of little authentic details in the art and dialogue. It’s also very gentle with Black women, with our challenges and emotions, and Lord knows we need more of that. The women are all young, but they cover a wide spectrum of Blackness–Afro-Latina, neurodivergent, queer, and so on. They interact with family, employers, and the spectres of partners past, present and future. But in the center of it all is their friendship with each other, and the shared physical lived experience of being in a Black body in America, down to scalp scratching and tight cornrows.

I’ve always had a circle of sistren around me–not always the same ones, but wherever I go, whatever I’ve done, I’ve always embraced and been embraced by other Black women. There is a security and joy that comes from being us in a world that more often than not strips us of safety and protection. It’s wonderful to see a book focus on our bond as Black women, not our trauma. It’s wonderful to see community love portrayed without sugar-coating the pain we sometimes experience, and see how we sustain and support each other lovingly portrayed.

Not a lot happens in this book, and it feels like there’s not a lot to say about it. But for such a short, simple book it says a lot.

A jar of Blue Magic and a wide-toothed comb to Wash Day Diaries.

(Beautiful people! I’m back, so expect to be inundated with reviews, news, and perhaps a long-awaited booklist or two, as well as updates about my own writing. Meanwhile, I want to remind you that we(meaning: I) still have a Bookshop where you can buy books if you want to support this site. Thanks for reading and go wrap yourself around a good book! Peace!)


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