Nancy Redd has one rule that’s non-negotiable for her family. “When the sun goes down, our hair goes up,” she told ESSENCE.
The author and mother turned this policy into a delightful children’s book that honors the time-honored practice of Black women protecting their hair with satin bonnets. The idea for Bedtime Bonnet came from her daughter’s reaction to being told she needed to wear one at 3 years old.
“She was like, ‘I don’t want to wear a bonnet, bonnets are for old people,'” Redd recalled.
As someone familiar with the power of representation in media, Redd recognized the source of her daughter’s rejection immediately.
“Because when you’re 3 or 4, you are not going to sleepovers, you know what I mean? And we moved far away from our extended family. So it’s not like I was hanging out with the cousins and she was able to see other people her age,” said Redd. “She only saw me and grandma in a bonnet.”
She continued, “I just didn’t know how to explain it to her because of the cartoon characters she would watch. Even the Black ones, they don’t wear anything to bed on their head, which now is a huge plot hole that causes me stress. Like when little children are going to bed, they are just laying their head on top of that cotton pillowcase and it stresses me out.”
Redd merged her annoyance with her talents to write Bedtime Bonnet. The quick read features the full lips, brown skin, glorious locs, buoyant curls, and soft caresses that have made up the nightly routine of Black families for generations. Du-rags, silk scarves, wave caps, and doobie wraps are all represented in its pages. Redd wanted to transfer her love of the self-care ritual onto her little girl and children around the world.
“I literally sit in my bonnet all day long,” she gushed. “I come home and my bra comes off and my bonnet comes on and I’m ready to enjoy my life…It just brings me so much joy because it’s like a little hug for my head.”
Redd revealed that she used to feel shame about rocking a bonnet. “And now I’m like, ‘No, we don’t have time for any more shame.’ There’s nothing that we need to feel uncomfortable about…so that’s why my first children’s book is about bonnets.”
The mother dismisses the idea that bonnets should be hidden and is thankful for people normalizing their presence. “You see celebrities like Tia Mowry constantly posting her baby in a bonnet and it’s amazing. It’s so much fun to see that. And this was not happening a couple of years ago! “
Similar to Matthew Cherry’s children’s book and Oscar-winning adaptation, Hair Love, Bedtime Bonnet allows Black children to see their reality reflected in their entertainment. Redd and Cherry are part of a necessary shift towards inclusion in publishing. Thanks to Black parents refusing to accept what was previously on the market, even the most traditional publishing houses are being forced to serve everyone.
“I think people are starting to realize that we mean business with our dollars,” said Redd. “We are finally getting our own seats at the table and creating our own table.”
As a veteran author, she feels a responsibility to ensure others have the opportunity to do the same. Redd notes that Bedtime Bonnet “cannot fail because if it doesn’t do well then someone else doesn’t get a chance to have their book.”
I cannot live my life without my bonnet.
Thanks to Bedtime Bonnet, bonnet pride is alive and well in the Redd house.
“It is an essential part of our life,” she boasted. “I compare it to like eyeglasses. I cannot see without my eyeglasses or my contacts. I cannot live my life without my bonnet.”
Redd said she no longer has to explain to her baby girl why she must protect her crown. “Now it just works,” she said. “She’s like ‘Mom, where’s my bonnet?”
Bedtime Bonnet is available for pre-order now before it hits bookshelves April 7.