The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

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Chapter 7 Summary

One evening, Momma is making dinner and Kenny is doing his homework when Byron walks in with a hat on. Seeing them, he tries to make a quick exit. Momma stops him and makes him take off his hat, only to discover that his head is covered with a blue and white handkerchief. Momma knows immediately that Byron has done something that his father has explicitly forbidden him to do: he has gotten a "conk," a process that has left his hair "reddish brown, straight, stiff and slick-looking." Momma, furious, asks Byron:

Is this straight mess more attractive than your own hair? Did those chemicals give you better-looking hair than me and your daddy and God gave you?

When Momma tells Byron that he looks like a clown, Byron retorts that he does not see anything wrong with his new hairdo and that he thinks "Mexican-style hair" looks "cool." Momma warns him that he may not be feeling the same way once his daddy gets through with him, and she sends him to his room.

Kenny tells Joey about Byron's hair as soon as she arrives home from church, and the two of them go upstairs to wait with their big brother. Kenny takes the opportunity to give Byron a hard time because Byron is already in trouble and will not be able to get back at him. Joey is shocked when she sees Byron's hair and admonishes him to wash it out before Dad gets home. Byron finally tells Joey that what he has done to his hair does not wash out; it will be gone only when it grows out. Always protective of her oldest sibling, Joey asks Byron "who did this to [him]," and Kenny answers instinctively and correctly that Buphead is the culprit. Kenny continues to take the opportunity to torment Byron, and Byron compares his situation to that...

(The entire section is 624 words.)