Twisted:  My Dreadlock Chronicles by Bert Ashe.

“Don’t get it twisted,” is a familiar colloquialism.  Translation: don’t misunderstand my meaning, or don’t distort my intentions.   Bert Ashe’s use of the word “twisted” in his title is a double entendre.  He refers to the literal twisting of one’s hair to “lock” it.  But he also refers to something more complex—the struggle engaged by African Americans to establish and maintain control of the black body and how it is “read” or misread.  He refers to both the Dread Lock and the dreaded lock.  

Ashe invites us to consider the complex thinking that has gone into his effort to  construct a bodily narrative—everything that says, this is who I am, this is how I want to be “read.”  His decision to wear dreadlocks has thrown him into a deep investigation of the “self” and the world.  

Before we talk about “the book,” let’s talk about his Contents Page.  What do you see there?  What is Bert Ashe telling us about his “contents” on these two pages of Contents? 
Could you write YOUR story using Bert Ashe’s Table of Contents?


11 thoughts on “Twisted

  1. Ashe organizes the Contents page in a way that is simple but bold and direct at the same time. To me, Ashe constructed the book Twisted to reflect on the various stereotypes that are associated with having dreadlocks and brings to light the cultural, historical, and stylistic aspects of the hairstyle. Origins, Growth, Twisted, Golden Age, Locked, and finally Confessions expresses the different stages of becoming “locked” and the various experiences he received throughout his process. I know that after I read the book, I payed more attention to individuals hair and truly noticed that it reflects various aspects of their personality. Hair is a way to express your mood, feelings, and even passions. Ashe combines all of these elements together to express the fascinating hairstyle.


  2. I enjoyed the novel “Twisted” by Bert Ashe because it exemplified how the evolution of a person’s mental and emotional state affects their outward appearance. As Ashe became more self assured and comfortable in his skin, he began his journey to grow dreadlocks. Dreadlocks were a cultural appropriation for him that conjoined his old and new self. Not only did this novel detail the psychological adjustment Ashe endured while growing dreadlocks, but it also discussed the history of dreadlocks and the stigmas that go along with wearing them. In the midst of detailing his dreadlock journey, Ashe analyzes how black identity is shaped by our history and modern day customs. I believe this novel uplifts and affirms all facets of black culture and serves as a conduit for the voices of African Americans.


  3. In my unpopular opinion, I disliked Ashe’s long, drawn-out approach in describing his journey to his his dreadlocks. I thought as if there were certain areas in which he could have done without, or restated his words. To be blunt – I thought he was whining a lot of the time. Now, the above conversation starter caused me to appreciate his dedication to really understand the depths of the dreadlock culture. His delibration to make sure he was one hundred percent assured that he was ready for such a change is admirable. If only the Kylie Jenners and more of our generation, who strive to look like us without really comprehending the context, nor the history, of their style choices could do the same.


  4. I related to Ashe’s concern about how people view him through his hair. I think about how people perceive women with short hair as being masculine. Although I do not want to be perceived as masculine, I wear my short hair proudly. Because I enjoy its style and convenience. I do not think that I would be able to write my story using that table of contents. I usually make decisions more systematically and less emotionally.


  5. I related to Ashe’s concern about how people view him through his hair. I think about how people perceive women with short hair as being masculine. Although I do not want to be perceived as masculine, I wear my short hair proudly. Because I enjoy its style and convenience. I do not think that I would be able to write my story using that table of contents. I usually make decisions more systematically and less emotionally.


  6. At one point during Ashe’s growth process he was very concerned about what his peers would think about his hair. When making any drastic change one cannot help but wonder about the opinion of others. The topic of hair in the workplace came up. It is interesting to think about what we consider to be a “professional” hairstyle. Recently, I have questioned whether or not I should wear my hair a certain way in a professional setting. I was not confident that natural hair was an adequate look for the corporate environment. This section of the book shows that this concern is present in everyday life, and many go through it.


  7. Twisted was actually the first book that I read over the summer. I enjoyed how Ashe went into the history of dreadlocks which showed that a hairstyle is not solely a hairstyle. Everything is symbolic and has some sort of history, even the hair on our heads. I also liked how Ashe developed as he got his hair locked. Twisted shows that hair is a major focal point within the Black community that refuses to be ignored.


  8. Twisted is my favorite book out of the three. Who knew that a man could write an entire book about the process of growing dreads? I love the way that Ashe organizes the book. He successfully turns something not seen as a hot topic – dreadlocks- and breaks it down to elaborate on its deeper meaning.

    However, I want to mention a particular scene in the book that I do not understand. There is a point where Ashe and his family take a trip to Disneyland, and his wife makes a huge deal about a white girl rubbing their son’s head. I am confused as to how such a small gesture of what I felt was encouragement could make the wife feel like slapping the young woman. I must be missing something.


  9. Firstly, I would just like to state that I really had high hopes and expectations for this book before I even read the summary. So when I finally purchased a copy I set out to read and finish it in one week, simply out of pure excitement. But as I dove deeply into the words of Bert Ashe, my excitement slowly churned into confusion and frustration. It was not just what Mr. Ashe was writing in his book that frustrated me it was how he wrote it. The way the novel was contrasted was so chaotically it became distracting. It jumped back and forth between a historical account and a narrative. Now whether or not Ashe employed such a technique in order to create some kind of extended metaphor is debatable; but the obvious problem with such “structure” is that it attempts to “fuse” the narrative aspects of the novel with the historical elements. Which in the end, creates a clash so violent the reader is thrown back and forth throughout the novel with little time to process.

    Although Ashe repeatedly stated the negative stigmas Jamaicans with or without dreadlocks faced, due to the image the media portrayed. He briefly, almost accidentally, covered the negative sides of becoming or existing as a natural haired black woman or man in america today. It was almost as if he was holding back, he would skim past an “uncomfortable” experience or two and jump straight into another topic, never really taking some time with the issue. And although I understand this was his story, of his journey, I could not understand why was there almost no mention of his wife in terms of experiences she had as a wife of someone growing dreadlocks. Was she not also natural? What was living as a natural black women like for her?
    Overall, I personally feel as if this book was a big opportunity for Bert Ashe to address the “big hair” issue in America, yet instead it was used to ramble about how often he looked in the mirror and really liked his hair. This is not an indictment or scalding review of the novel, because I did learn to enjoy it for what it was, but I just began to feel like a lot of the topics I expected to encounter were neglected; which in turn, caused me to develop a disliking of the novel.


    1. Dear Jessika, Your comments cause me to regret that we did not pursue the plan to take the book into a real discussion among the students. Of course, this is still possible, and I look forward to the students taking the work into serious discussion–regarding style and content. However, Professor Ashe was here with us to present a section of the work in his own voice; he was also here to respond to questions. The passion of your comments causes me to wonder why you might have been reticent to engage the author with questions– Why didn’t he spend more time talking about his wife’s hair? Why did he focus on his inner story rather than use his experiences as a vehicle to talk about “the big hair issue?” What about his focus on grooming and style, as well as history and culture? I think the students who chose this book as “their” book (of which you are one) still owe themselves (and the rest of us) a chance to dig into the work with our creative questions, thoughts and conclusions. So, when will we come back together again?? The ball is in your court.


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