Thursday, November 20, 2014

10 Day Hair Challenge: Style #1

A few days ago I spontaneously visited a friend in my building who had just put on flexi rods. She was a little embarrassed, but as a fellow "natural hair sister," I understand that our unflattering hair care regimen often leads to quite flattering results. Not to mention, her enthusiasm to try something new gave me a kick in the pants, as I've been donning the same two hairstyles for a coupe years now.

I checked out a YouTuber that the friend recommended, Mo Knows Hair, but decided that at least in regards to that particular video, the styles were a little too sophisticated for "little ol' me." But it did prompt me to further my search, and I came across this video of "10 Styles for Short Curly Hair." I'm guessing this vlogger is in high school, but her "cutesy" styles definitely fit my personality. I scanned through the video and decided to assign myself a 10-Day Challenge: I'll try each of her 10 hairstyles over a period of 10 days. Granted, I may not actually do them 10 days in a row, but I'm definitely committed to trying all of them. (Though two are my go-to styles, so those will be cheat days.)

Without further ado, here is Day #1 (Hair Style #4).

It's hard to tell, but this style has two side french braids that come together in the back. For some reason it's much easier to do a normal french braid than a side one, and the style looked good until my hair dried lost about 3 inches of length. But, a good style to keep toying with and to use maybe on Day 6 (the number of days between washes, where with each subsequent day the hair has more essential natural oils, i.e., is less frizzy).

Stay tuned for the next new do!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Mixed Remixed Festival

The Mixed Remixed Festival, formerly known as the Mixed Roots Literary and Film Festival, is holding their annual gathering at the Japanese American National Museum on June 14th, 2014. The festival is hosted by author Heidi Durrow, of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.

I am listed among the featured writers for this year's event. Come see me present an excerpt from Hambone, an in-progress memoir about my life with my father.

Shannon Luders-Manuel

mx14_shannonShannon Luders-Manuel is a native of the Bay Area in central California and lived her first two years on San Francisco’s famously diverse Haight Street with her black father from Missouri and white mother from Marin County, California. She received her Master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she focused on identity formation and the role of the white suitor in the “tragic mulatta” narrative. Shannon was a founding member of the all-inclusive Meetup group “Sisters and White Misters” located in Alameda, California, and is proud of her multiracial extended family which includes spouses and partners with ethnicities from around the globe. Shannon’s previous literary works include a postcolonial analysis of the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping case in Vanderbilt University’s online academic journal, AmeriQuests. She is currently working on a memoir entitled Hambone about her relationship with her deceased father.

Diversity Consciousness: Opening Our Minds to People, Cultures, and Opportunities

There is truth to the adage, "Good things come to those who wait."

An article I got published on Teaching Tolerance magazine's website has shown up on many other diversity websites throughout the years, and has now made it into a textbook published by Pearson.

I look forward to purchasing this book in the very near future and seeing what other gems it holds.

~Shannon Luders-Manuel

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What My Mother Has Taught Me

It's been almost a year since my second most recent post, "What My Father Taught Me." As a reintroduction to my blog, it seems appropriate to follow it up with a tribute to my mother, just a little shy of Mother's Day and the 2nd anniversary of her successful brain surgery.

1. Beauty is everywhere.

Many women, including myself, notice man-made, artificial objects of beauty. My mother, however, never seems to notice these things. Instead, she sees every individual flower, bird, and tree on any walk she ever takes. Taking walks with my mother can be painfully slow due to these sightings, but her mesmerization and wonder at the beauty of nature inspires me to look past the pretty buildings and pretty clothes and see the tiny little blue flower peeking up from the cracked sidewalk.

2. Disability doesn't determine capability.

My mom was born with a cleft lip and palate, and in the 50s, surgeries weren't as streamlined as they are today. As a result, my mother grew up with highly visible imperfections on her face, and children and adults alike assumed these imperfections affected her mental capabilities. In reality, my mother was the only one of her siblings to earn a Master's degree. She taught me not only to see people for their insides, but also to embrace their outsides just the way they are. I therefore naturally gravitated towards peers who were somehow different, because to me, they were just as normal as anyone else.

3. Don't be afraid to cry.

When my mother was sad, she cried, and from a young age I learned that this was a natural expression of one's emotions. She never once told me not to cry, and this freedom has allowed me to be sympathetic toward others when they're feeling down.

4. Books are a girl's best friend. 

My mom still gets lost in a good book, to the point where everything around her fades away. After having received my Master's in English literature, it's hard to enjoy the simple pleasure of reading purely for reading's sake, but I'm determined to recultivate this pasttime with the vigor that my mom has never lost.

5. There is nothing wrong with waiting in line.

My mom is an incredibly patient person. I have rarely seen her honk her horn out of frustration or get irritated by having to wait in line at a grocery store. She takes these inconveniences in stride, knowing that an extra thirty seconds is nothing to get worked up about.

6. The grass never greener on the other side.

My mother has never expressed a wish to have someone else's house, job, car, or, well, life. She exudes contentment with everything, as if existence itself is a gift that has been bestowed upon her and not to be taken for granted.

Friday, November 8, 2013

DIY Cost-Cutting Haircuts

Lately I've been short on cash, so I've been doing what I can to cut costs. One of those cuts has been literal. After a full year of postponing a haircut until "the next paycheck," a few days ago I took matters--and scissors--into my own hands.

Following the growing advice of mixed race self-taught hair gurus, I've been putting my hair in about 10 to 15 twists each night, securing each with a hairband. Despite non-mixies assuming the twists create the curl, we mixies know the twists help keep our rebellious strands from turning into dreadlocks. On this particular evening, I grabbed my hair cutting sheers, usually reserved for "fairy knots," and cut the scraggly inch off of each twist below the hairband. This took all of five minutes, if that.

Granted, because my hair was in its twists, I had no idea if my self-grooming would turn out to be successful. But luckily, the next morning when I undid the twists, added my usual touch of water and my large touch of conditioner, those perfect curls sprang into a perfect line across my back. Success!

Now, I would be a fool to suggest that anyone follow my example unless, like me, they feel the risk is worth the possible blunder. But, as my mom says my grandma says, "Curly hair hides a multitude of sins," one being the "sin" of the hasty, unprofessional DIY.

Side note: Always angle your scissors as you cut.

Okay, so this obviously isn't a real photo, but you get the idea, courtesy of

Friday, June 22, 2012

What My Father Taught Me

June marks Father's Day, Loving Day, Juneteenth, and my dad's birthday. All of these special days remind me of my father, who passed away eleven years ago at the age of 71. Just like everyone, my father had demons, challenges, and setbacks. What he also had was an innate awareness of human interactions and a philosophical depth always two steps beyond his years. He was also wise, proud, stubborn, and loved his little girl to pieces.

Here, in no particular order, is what my father taught me:

1. Make copies of everything.

While this advice may be pretty obvious, it's served me well over the years. I make copies of all documents and forms before sending them to their recipients. If I need my tax information from 7 years ago or a bill from 7 months ago, I know just where to look.

2. It's better to have something and not need it than to need something and not have it.

I remind myself of this favorite line of his whenever I question whether to grab my coat, sweater, scarf, etc., before I head out the door.

3. Follow politics.

My dad knew everything -- or at least it seemed that way to me. He read law books and studied history and watched the news. He knew that I, as a black female, would be affected by politics, and that knowledge is the best weapon a person can have.

4. Don't drink the Kool Aid.

My dad knew ahead of time that Jim Jones was going to do something horrible both to and with his cult followers. He has taught me to question everything, no matter how innocuous it might seem to be.

5. Blacks should support gay rights just as much as they supported the Civil Rights movement.

In 1993, a gay student at my California high school wasn't allowed to bring his partner to the school dance without a fight; but my dad already understood that his own gay neighbors should be awarded the same respect that blacks had struggled to obtain in the 60s.

6. Have no regrets.

I could tell my father had regrets as he lay dying. The most important thing he's taught me is to have confidence, fight for what I believe in, and never take a single day for granted. Dad, this one's for you.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

You Know You Have Black Natural Hair When...

1. Your extra-strength hair bands don't last long.

2. You have a sweatshirt just for wearing while you comb out your hair.

3. You don't wash your hair for a date.

4. The longer you go before washing it again, the healthier it is.
Photo courtesy of

5. Strangers respond to your hair as if it were a cute baby or a puppy.

6. When you book your stylist appointment you make sure she sets aside 3 hours just for you.

7. Your stylist often needs backup in order to get through your 3-hour appointment on time.

8. You laugh when your non-black female friend hands you her wire hairbrush.

9. You wouldn't need a wig to be Marge Simpson for Halloween.

10. Your hair works in the ratio of miles to inches: Miles of straight = inches of curly.

11. Your nightly twists take a full episode of [insert your favorite TV show here].

12. Caps and hats often don't fit your head.

13. An earring can get lost in your hair for hours before falling on the kitchen floor.

14. Your black friends insist that if they went natural their hair would never look like yours.

15. When your black friends do go natural it's like coming out of the closet -- liberating and tremendously exciting.

16. You have a facebook album dedicated solely to your natural hair journey, and this album gets the most responses.

17. You would consider spending $200 for an Ouidad cut.

18. You and female strangers bond over your mutual "awkward childhood afro phase" and "chemically-treated singed straight hair phase."

19. You wish Michelle Obama would go natural but understand why she can't.

20. You wouldn't have your hair any other way.