Marching Womens History: Headwraps

Georgia Scott, Art Director, NY Times

In, 2000, Georgia Scott became fascinated with the fad in the US Black community of wearing headwraps. Her passions overtook her, she re-arranged her life and parted for a year-long voyage to discover why women in various parts of the globe cover their heads, who wears headwraps and what they have in common. She seemed to have found more variations than commonalities. Head coverings can be made of silk, muslin, gauze, wool or other fabrics that are tied, wrapped, folded or twisted.

In many countries, such as India, Jamaica, Kenya, Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates, they are worn mainly for religious reasons. The way a headscarf is worn in the United Arab Emirates, for example, not only indicates a woman’s country of origin, but also hints at her interpretation of the Qu’ran and its edicts on feminine modesty. In other regions, headwraps reinforce social differences, distinguishing the wealthy from the poor, men from women and clans from other clans. Or they mark major events. In some ethnic communities in rural China, for example, a headwrap indicates a woman’s coming-of-age: the embroidery work on the turban of a young Yao woman in the mountains of Thailand indicates that she is able to make clothes for the family and is therefore ready for marriage. In some countries headwraps are an integral part of daily life. In Morocco, Mali and Niger, for example, harsh climate conditions make headwraps a daily necessity, while in other countries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, traditional headwarps are reserved for special occasions, such as weddings and official state functions.

Headwraps are worn in atleast 44 countries in the worlds. In her travels, Scott traveled to 32. While she includes men’s head coverings in her writing, she admits what they wear pales by comparison to the women’s attire. The use of headwraps in these countries is changing through the effects of globalization. Scott has been able to document important cultural images and offer interesting insights to the nuances of what is worn on heads around the globe.

The bright, attractive photos will attract reluctant readers while students who are interested in history, geography, cultural and women’s issues will naturally gravitate to this book.

Marching Women’s History

book feature: The Good Women of China

author: Xinran

Pantheon Books, 2002


One of the first things Deng Xiaoping did to open up China was to open up the airways. Rather than having radio shows that dictated the party line, journalists such as Xinran began exploring new territories, still within dictated parameters but offering a much wider variety of information. As Xinran opened her thoughts to her listeners and gained their trust with her honesty, she began to receive letters from listeners throughout China. The first letter she received was from a young girl imploring Xinran to help a girl who had been kidnapped and chained down so that she couldn’t escape her elderly husband. The 14 year old girl had actually been kidnapped from her family.

Listeners, often female, thought Xinran had no right to intrude upon this situation and in analyzing the women’s’ reactions, Xinran realized how naive and uneducated the women were about matters of sexuality and relationships. She obtained permission to discuss women’s’ issues on the radio and the letters poured into her. The Good Women of China is a result of those letters. Each chapter is a single woman’s tale.

The book’s British publisher has an excerpt of the book, author’s interview and a study guide on their website.

two very different review for the book:

Book Addiction

Ann Skea

The Good Women of China is an adult book that will appeal to older teens.



Women Doing Literary Things

For the most part, I’ve met many nice people while blogging and I have lots of fun. No, doubt I’ve worked hard at blogging and I’ve really realized that over the past week or so when my laptop died and I was forced to take a break. The thing is, I do minimal work here. I don’t dig deep like many I know who always go for the backstory, who check every link and network their ass off. There are some meanly impressive people, no face it impressive ladies here who are passionate about literacy, about teens, books and reading.

Most of us are just having fun.

But there are ladies here who just blow the roof off what we do. Women doing literary things. Women who write blog posts that are better researched than the last paper I turned in to a professor. Smart women. Fierce with words, thoughts and deeds! Passionate about making the world better for our girls who still face obstacles that make our constant battle for more books for teens of color seem trite and insignificant. But the only way our girls can stand a chance is if they are literate: if they’re able to successful decode the world around them. And the first step in that direction is for girls to be able to find someone like them in the books they read.

I’ve long been impressed by the work of Niranjana Iyer at the Brown Paper blog. Brew a cup of tea and take the time to read her blog, learn from it as I often do! To celebrate Women’s History Month, Niranjana has decided to create the Women Doing Literary Things project. In her own words:

I’m starting a blog series called “Women Doing Literary Things”, with the aim of demonstrating the depth and breadth of women’s involvement in literature. I’ve been mulling over this idea for a while, but the VIDA stats ( demonstrating the under-representation of women in the literary world pushed me to action, and I wanted to do something beyond querying wildly everywhere (as some have suggested). Every week, the WDLT series will showcase one or more women in the literary arts–writers, journalists, agents, bookstore owners, magazine editors, librarians, literature professors etc. etc. I’m aiming for as wide a range as possible, and I’ll be kicking the project off on March 8 (Women’s Day).

The first post is up, so be sure to visit today!





Marching Women’s History

I didn’t do any of the ethnic history months, but I’ve decided to celebrate Woman’s History Month. During the month, I’ll be sharing non-fiction titles that celebrate women of color. We’re going to start out kinda jazzy with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.

This all women band was formed to earn money for the Piney Woods Country Life School [you’ve got to click this just to hear the school song!] in Piney Woods, Mississippi. As popular as the band was, their earnings were slim and little was available for the school. Members of the band were African American, mixed raced, Asian  and Native American as well as White women.

In 2009, Marilyn Nelson and Jerry Pinkney documented this story in Sweethearts of Rhythm: the story of the greatest all girl band in the world. Together, they paired poems and watercolors to bring to life the syncopated life of these gifted women.

That Man of Mine plays with Tiny Davis on trumpet.

Musicians walk a tightrope. Below them lie madness and beauty.

The world was aflame, the men soldiering at the front.

The Sweethearts had no philosophy: They just did their duty.

A girl has to trumpet down Jericho, if a man can’t.

A girl must fling ecstasy over the world’s desperation

with flowery solos, with intricately scattered grace notes,

with hep-cat audacity. She must play a balm for her nation

with nuanced bravado.

A review of Sweethearts of Rhythm can be found on the HappyNappyBookseller Blog