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Young Adult Fiction Lgbt

God Loves Hair: 10th Anniversary Edition

text by Vivek Shraya

illustrated by Juliana Neufeld

foreword by Cherie Dimaline

Arsenal Pulp Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2020
LGBT, Religion & Faith, Asian American, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2020
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 12 to 18
  • Grade: 7 to 12


In 2010, Vivek Shraya self-published God Loves Hair, her first book; in the ten years since, Vivek has published six more titles including a novel, poetry collection, graphic novel, and children’s picture book, while also working as an artist, musician, and academic.

God Loves Hair is a collection of short stories that follows a tender, intelligent, and curious child as they navigate the complex realms of gender creativity, queerness, brownness, religion, and belonging. This tenth-anniversary edition includes a foreword by award-winning YA writer Cherie Dimaline (The Marrow Thieves), as well as additional a new preface, story, and illustrations.
Told with the poignant insight and honesty that only the voice of a young mind can convey, God Loves Hair is a moving and ultimately joyous portrait of the resiliency of youth.
Ages 12 and up.


This publication meets the EPUB Accessibility requirements and it also meets the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG-AA). It is screen-reader friendly and is accessible to persons with disabilities. A book with many images, which is defined with accessible structural markup. This book contains various accessibility features such as alternative text for images, table of contents, page-list, landmark, reading order and semantic structure.

About the authors

Vivek Shraya is the author of the young-adult collection God Loves Hair, the novel She of the Mountains, the poetry book even this page is white, and the children's picture book (with Rajni Perera) The Boy & the Bindi (all published by Arsenal Pulp Press), as well as I'm Afraid of Men and What I Love About Being QUEER. She is editor of the Arsenal Pulp Press imprint VS. Books, dedicated to work by young black, Indigenous, and writers of colour. Vivek was the 2014 recipient of the Steinert & Ferreiro Award for leadership in Toronto's LGBTQ community, the recipient of Anokhi Media's inaugural Most Promising LGBTQ Community Crusader Award in 2015, a 2015 Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award finalist, and a 2015 recipient of the Writers' Trust of Canada's Dayne Ogilvie Prize Honour of Distinction. Originally from Edmonton, she now lives in Calgary, where she is an assistant professor in the University of Calgary's Department of English.

Vivek Shraya's profile page

Juliana Neufeld is a Canadian children’s book illustrator and comic artist, known for her work on Treasure Hunters, the bestselling middle grade series by James Patterson, as well as her collaborations with multidisciplinary artist Vivek Shraya. Juliana’s work is inspired by folk art, classic children’s literature and small moments of connection and humour in everyday life. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.


Juliana Neufeld's profile page

Cherie Dimaline is a Métis author and editor whose award-winning fiction has been published and anthologized internationally. Her novels include Red Rooms, The Girl Who Grew A Galaxy, A Gentle Habit, The Marrow Thieves and Empire of Wild. In 2014, she was named the Emerging Artist of the Year at the Ontario Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, and became the first Indigenous Writer in Residence for the Toronto Public Library. Her young adult novel The Marrow Thieves has won the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Kirkus Prize, the Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature and was a finalist for the Trillium Book Award and, among other honors, was a fan favorite in the 2018 edition of CBC's Canada Reads. It was also a Book of the Year on numerous lists including NPR, School Library Journal, the New York Public Library, the Globe & Mail, Quill & Quire and the CBC. From the Georgian Bay Métis Community in Ontario, she now lives in Vancouver.


Cherie Dimaline's profile page

Excerpt: God Loves Hair: 10th Anniversary Edition (text by Vivek Shraya; illustrated by Juliana Neufeld; foreword by Cherie Dimaline)

My mother grows up in a big house in Ceylon with wide balconies and open windows.
Her mother tells her that she is the sunlight. She is loved.

But she is a girl.

From the instant a girl is born, her parents worry. How will we keep her safe? How will we make sure that she is educated enough, worthy enough for a husband? How will we afford to pay for her wedding, her dowry? My mother is part of a collective of four daughters, each one representing a series of burdens. She has a brother too, but his presence in the home is light or at least one the family is happy to bear and even display proudly. He is his parents’ greatest achievement, the assurance that the family name will live on. No one worries about him. He is a man, he can stand on his own two feet.

My mom does her best to lessen her weight, combing the knots out of her younger sister’s hair, fetching water from the well. Her fluency in French and actress-like beauty also guarantee that she won’t have too much trouble receiving a proposal from a doctor, engineer, or lawyer when she’s ready. But when her father unexpectedly dies, every day that she and her sisters remain unwed is another day their mom, now a single parent of five, spends in distress. The pressure is on my mother and marry wise is replaced by marry fast. She finds that she is no longer as attractive to potential suitors because the absence of a father suggests the absence of a dowry. You should have just married the neurosurgeon who came to see you last month. He was from a rich family, he would have been good to you. Then I would have one less daughter to worry about. She silently promises to herself that she will marry the next suitor who knocks on her door. The lucky beneficiary of this promise is the man from Canada with the thick sideburns, the multicoloured tie, and only a Master’s degree. My dad. They meet, are engaged, and then married in the span of ten days.

When the time comes to have children of her own, my mother is unwavering about her desire to have sons. Two healthy sons. So she does what any determined Hindu would do: she barters with God. If You grant me two healthy sons, I vow to give them their first haircuts at the Temple of Seven Hills in Tirupathi, India. It is believed that the hair on your head is what makes you beautiful. Shaving it off pleases God because it means you have chosen Him over your appearance.

My mother is pregnant. I am a basketball. As her tiny body expands, her prayers intensify. Let him be a boy. Let him look just like his father. Let him live. Every other firstborn in her family has died through miscarriage or stillbirth. She is comforted every time I kick. I am born the day after Valentine’s Day. My mother examines me closely. I have a penis. No missing toe or spare finger. She is overjoyed and cries: God is great! Like most Indian babies, I have a full head of jet-black hair. It grows fast and long, testing my mom’s resolve. But true to her word, no scissors or razor come near my head. My parents decide it would be best for their wallet if they try to make another baby boy right away.

This would save them from having to go to India twice to fulfill my mother’s end of the bargain. In the interim, my hair is managed into several mini-pigtails and eventually into one long, thin ponytail.

My, what a cute baby girl you have! Your daughter is so pretty! How old is she? She looks just like her dad. What’s her name? She has such chubby cheeks!

My first haircut is in Tirupathi, next to my baby brother, just as my mother prophesized. I cry as the barber pours warm water over my newly shaven head, the small cuts, made by his severe grip and his old razor, burning. God is happy. I am two years old.

The sky is a promising blue but the empty house is all mine. My mother and her younger sister are drinking chai on the front porch. My five-year-old mind races through all my favourite things to do, deciding how best to use this extraordinary time and space. I think about eating the Play-Doh kept in the craft corner of the basement or maybe sucking the vanilla pudding out of the tin cups that I am not trong enough to fully open. Then I picture my mother’s makeup case.

It is unguarded!

This is my chance to know her secrets, access her powers. I rush up the stairs, almost tripping into her washroom, and tear open her magic kit. I am blinded. All the bright colours are dazzling. But I am greedy for the colours that hide, the glossy surprises caged within lipstick shells. They call to me. One by one, I remove their lids, twist the blushing sticks to the top, smear my face like oil on canvas. Then I smash the lids back on, completely crushing the lipsticks.

My mother and aunt come inside to find lipstick casualties strewn across the washroom floor and my stained face, beaming and proud. My aunt spanks me until I am blue in the bum. Some of the lipsticks were hers.

My brother and I live in a Lego world, building amusement out of unsuspecting materials. Couch pillows become forts, quilts become flower-patterned wings, and his headboard becomes a stage for puppet shows. We have also discovered a secret cave under his bed, perfect for hiding in, which is particularly useful when mom yells from downstairs: Fold the laundry! But the change I love most happens when we play dress up. We wear each other’s clothes. His are smaller and tighter than my own. I like the feeling of the fabric choking my body. It’s like being touched all over.

I like dressing up at school too. Whenever there is a school play, I beg for the girl roles. Girls get to have long, flowing hair, some days French-braided, other days curled. They get to show off shiny earrings and delicate bracelets. And girls get to wear actual colours. Like popsicle pink and poppy red. Why should they have all the fun? It’s pretty easy convincing everyone that it would be funnier for a boy to play a girl, my pre-pubescent high-pitched voice an asset, but secretly I just want the chance to put on my mother’s velvet emerald-coloured dress. It too is small and tight, with a life of its own. I step into the dress and close my eyes. I let her Estée Lauder scent envelop me and feel her like a current of electricity, both warm and fierce. I become her. I am beautiful.

When we travel to India to visit my parent’s family, my aunts tell me how pretty I am. I seize the opportunity to test out their observations. Maybe you should dress me up in a sari and see what I would look like as a girl, I say coyly. They jump at the chance. They spread out their rainbow sari collections on the bed, and I feel like a princess as I choose the bold magenta and black one. It looks like something my mom would wear. They spin me around in the endless sheer fabric that smells like oil and mothballs and pleat it a couple times at the front so it looks like an accordion hanging from my waist. But my transformation isn’t complete. Bangles all the way up to my elbows, thick black eyeliner, a string of white jasmine flowers in my hair. From afar, my dad thinks I am some sweet village girl. I am the prettiest little girl in the world.

Editorial Reviews

"A book for all ages, God Loves Hair will be especially welcomed by contemporary genderqueer youth and twentysomethings who will see themselves in these vividly realized pages." —Booklist (STARRED REVIEW)

"Neufeld's mixed-media illustrations pair well with the scenes they depict, capturing the essence of being young with their multilayered texture and comic book-like immediacy. Running the emotional spectrum from shame to pleasure to acceptance, Shraya offers a refreshing window into the intimate struggles of youth." —Kirkus Reviews

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