Piece Comment

Review of My Muslim Hairdresser

Women often judge a barber's sense of flair by what her hair looks like. OK, I'm a man and I don't know this for a fact. But this is what Shana Sheehy tells me in her essay "My Muslim Hairdresser" and I believe her. This is also the central premise of Sheehy's tale of Alice, her Alaskan hairdresser who converted to Islam before 9/11. Sheehy begins with a set-up: We hear her voice as she describes making the appointment and being told her regular hairdresser isn't available. Instead, she's been assigned to Alice, a hairdresser she hasn't met. As she waits at the salon, we hear sounds of footsteps and nascent chattering. Sheehy describes her first impression of Alice, including what she's wearing: "She was fully covered in loose fitting black clothes and she wore a pretty hair scarf that covered every strand of her presumably black hair." The rest of the piece is all Alice. We hear about her early curiosity with Islam, her struggles with covering up her "moneymaker" (that is, her hair), her decision to stop cutting men's hair (because she didn't want to shampoo their hair --- a violation of her interpretation of the Qur'an). The piece reaches its climax at just after 5 minutes when Alice says, "There's freedom to be able to wear a scarf ... When you see a Muslim woman, you are see a woman who is wanting you to deal with her mind, not her body." Unfortunately, there's another 40 seconds or so still to come. I would have ended with that quote and forced the listener to consider that truth.