I received this book for free from Chronicle Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.Wash Day Diaries by Jamila Rowser, Robyn Smith
Illustrator: Robyn Smith
Published by Chronicle Books on July 7, 2022
Source: Chronicle Books
Buy on Amazon, Buy on Bookshop
From writer Jamila Rowser and artist Robyn Smith comes a captivating graphic novel love letter to the beauty and endurance of Black women, their friendships, and their hair.
Wash Day Diaries tells the story of four best friends--Kim, Tanisha, Davene, and Cookie--through five connected short story comics that follow these young women through the ups and downs of their daily lives in the Bronx.
The book takes its title from the wash day experience shared by Black women everywhere of setting aside all plans and responsibilities for a full day of washing, conditioning, and nourishing their hair. Each short story uses hair routines as a window into these four characters' everyday lives and how they care for each other.
Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith originally kickstarted their critically acclaimed, award-winning slice of life mini comic, Wash Day, inspired by Rowser's own wash day ritual and their shared desire to see more comics featuring the daily lived experiences of young Black women. Wash Day Diaries includes an updated, full color version of this original comic--which follows Kim, a 26-year-old woman living in the Bronx--as the book's first chapter and expands into a graphic novel with short stories about these vibrant and relatable new characters.
In expanding the story of Kim and her friends, the authors pay tribute to Black sisterhood through portraits of shared, yet deeply personal experiences of Black hair care. From self-care to spilling the tea at an hours-long salon appointment to healing family rifts, the stories are brought to life through beautifully drawn characters and different color palettes reflecting the mood in each story.
At times touching, quiet, triumphant, and laugh out loud funny, the stories of Wash Day Diaries pay a loving tribute to Black joy and the resilience of Black women.
Wash Day Diaries by Jamila Rowser is an ode to friendship and the hair care routines of Black women that connect us. I truly enjoyed this graphic novel! It’s inclusive and the stories of the four young women cover a wide range of personal experiences.
It’s a quick read, but a memorable one that will have you begging for more. Each chapter is a short story featuring one of four best friends – Kim, Tanisha, Davene and Cookie.
Black Women and Self Care
To be honest, I have never seen a wash day experience depicted in a book before. I felt an instant connection from page one as Kim starts her wash day routine. Depending on how much hair you have and what you are doing, it can literally take all day. The line “Nah, it’s wash day. I ain’t goin’ nowhere.” had me laughing.
Slice of Life
Each chapter follows a different young woman during a day in her life. I did a little research on Jamila Rowser and discovered this book was inspired by her “slice-of-life” mini comic, Wash Day.
Even though each woman has her own short story, they are all entwined in each other’s lives in supportive roles. This sisterhood was so full of joy! Wash Day Diaries is a true celebration of women’s friendship. They really are there for one another and step up for each other. It was super refreshing to see how they interacted with each other and comforted each other.
Even during moments that as a reader, you may feel that a character didn’t really understand what another was going through like Cookie and Davene, at the core they still had each others backs. Especially when Cookie helps Davene, who is suffering from depression, pick herself back up by doing her hair. I felt that although Cookie’s response to Davene talking about her consideration of antidepressants, was insensitive though well-meaning, it was also a realistic depiction of how many conversations go when someone shares they need help with their mental health and the other person doesn’t have real understanding of how serious things are for them.
I thought the illustrations were vivid and contributed to the story Rowser told. I’ve seen Robyn Smith’s work before and notice that she has a preference for purple hues. I thought it worked beautifully here. My review is of the arc, so not all of the pages were in color, but the ones that were, were beautiful.
Will there be more?
The one wish I have about this book is to know if it’s slated to be part of a series. I would love that! There is enough here for each character to continue each young woman’s story. I’ll be on the lookout!