Cuttin’ Up: Wit and Wisdom From Black Barber Shops by Craig Marberry

$ 7.45

From Publishers Weekly
The author of Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats (a collaboration with photographer Michael Cunningham) shifts his focus from hats to hair with this celebration of the black barber shop, “one of the nation's earliest black businesses [and]… as much a think tank as it is a comedy showcase.” Over the course of 18 months, Marberry traveled around the country to document that particular “barber shop atmosphere.” In Detroit, a policeman waxes poetic about a good “Razor Line” haircut; in Nashville, Oprah Winfrey's barber father, Vernon, jokes: “Somebody asked me if Oprah is my only child. I said, 'The only one so far.' ” Along with the cutting quips and clipping tips, each barber and patron offers a little slice of life; topics include black history, celebrity clients, raids on unlicensed barbers, robberies, murders and the attitudes of female barbers: “It's tough for a woman in a barber shop. They say it's the black man's country club.” Sixty b&w photos show the faces behind the commentary, but only some locations are identified; shop names aren't supplied, and curiously, shop exteriors aren't shown. And though Marberry is a fine writer, he gives only four pages of his own words. (May 10)
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In Crowns and The Spirit of Harlem, journalist Craig Marberry took oral history to a new level. Here, in Cuttin’ Up, he presents more pitch-perfect portraits so good you’ll feel like you’re eavesdropping. Cuttin’ Up celebrates the laid-back fellowship of men in a barber shop, the place, as Marberry writes, “where we go to be among ourselves, to be ourselves, to unmask.”

Crisscrossing the country from Detroit to Orlando, Brooklyn to Houston, Marberry listened in on conversations that covered everything from reminiscences about the first haircut—a sometimes comic rite of passage—to spirited exchanges about women, to serious lessons in black history and current events. His collection of the wit and wisdom of patrons and barbers—including the small but scrappy subset of women barbers and the father of a very famous celebrity—brings together an irresistible and often touching chorus of voices.

Marberry has created a book that sings with the handsome beauty of the oral tradition that is the cornerstone of the black barber shop experience.

A portion of the proceeds from this book support the Maya Angelou Research Center on Minority Health at Wake Forest University.