The article “In the kitchen” written by the renowned author Henry Louis Gates is his own memoir of African-American hairstyle and it goes beyond the subject to bring forward the discussion of assimilation. Gates recalls his childhood memory of the kitchen in family’s Piedmont house. Even though the writer introduces the old-fashioned kitchen equipped with gas stove as the reminder of big mom’s cooking, the kitchen turns out to serve as the place where mom usually does her hair. This article also includes Henry’s own experience of straightening his hair whereby he questions the practicability and indispensability of the assimilation through hairstyle. Even though the article appears to celebrate the marvel of hair straightening process, somehow it renders author’s ambivalent stance about the issue.
The memoir starts with the description of mom’s hair-doing process in the kitchen. However, mom straightens not only her own hair but also her clients’. Women like mom come to the “barberry’s” to have their kinky hair straightened. “There was an intimate warmth in the women’s tones as they talked with my mom” writer depicts the subtle tone of these clients so as to unveil their underlying excitement about the process. Amidst the joy of successfully transforming the hairstyle, there is a bittersweet tone, for the ironic delight arises through forgoing people’s identities. These women enjoy the process, as if their hairs were straightened, they would earn acceptance as true Americans. The notion however, is an illusion, a bubble that breaks so soon as the hair ”[becomes] kinky again the second it even approached some water”. Henry in this part of his article praises the beauty of wavy hair and the marvel of the process, but then allows readers to understand the ephemerality of the transformation. The kitchen, used to be the place where mom straightens her hair and others’, has another definition: “the very kinky bit of hair at the back of your head, where your neck...
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