Like the lion is the king of the jungle, Pops is the king of this house.
The lion doesn’t wear a crown, but that doesn’t change that he’s a king.
Instead, he wears a mane, and Pops’s hair represents the same thing.
With these words, author Diana Dunham-Nelson opens her book Loc Love, a story that strives to educate kids on the beauty and versatility of natural Black hair. Loc Love first opens with a gentle illustration of a baby’s nursery, decorated with soft colors and cartoon jungle animals. As a young boy named Danté holds his baby brother Cairo on his lap, the two of them flip through an old photo album. All the photos feature their father, Pops, as a young boy — and with every new picture, he sports a new hairstyle.
Danté explains to Cairo that, at first, people everywhere would compliment their father on his hairstyles. From the Caesar cut to silky waves, Pops was the pinnacle of cool. Perceptions of Pops changed once he grew his hair out, however. He appeared older with a full beard and longer curls, and suddenly the compliments transformed into distrustful looks. Pops was followed around in stores and was even asked by some of his bosses to cut his hair.
Eventually, Pops reached a point when he had to decide: was he going to conform to what society expected of him? Or was he going to take a stand and be proud of his “crown?”
While Loc Love focuses on Pops and his transformative journey of embracing his natural hair, the message is all-too relatable. Pops’ struggle with other’s assumptions is the reality of natural hair discrimination, and it’s pervasive in every part of life.
For author Diana Dunham-Nelson, the message of Loc Love is especially personal. Pops, Danté and Cairo aren’t just characters — they’re her own husband and sons. It’s no wonder then, why she has crafted Loc Love with such skill and care, or how the book hits the emotional mark with such precision. Her work stands as a vital guide to empowering young Black children and teaching them to celebrate their hair.
Keddan E. Savage’s illustrations pair perfectly with Dunham-Nelson’s prose, capturing Pops’ stylish cuts through the years. The focus isn’t only on Pops’ hair, however; every figure in the story has their hair wonderfully detailed, from Danté’s locs to Cairo’s little baby ‘fro. The result is a beautiful series of image in which the meticulous hairstyles emphasize the message of the story. Even the lion motif runs through the book — on Pop’s T-shirt, as well as on the wall of baby Cairo’s nursery.
The love and pride that Diana Dunham-Nelson feels for her family shines through every word of Loc Love. From its dedication to the very last page, she encourages every reader to embrace their natural hair. As Danté says, “baby bro, don’t ever let anyone tell you that your hair is not good.” Loc Love is a call to the next generation to celebrate their hair and the proud legacy that comes with it.