Reading Life Editor

Charlotte novelist has a winning way with hair

pkelley@charlotteobserver.comMarch 2, 2013 

  • Meet the author

    Kim Boykin will be one of five authors speaking about their books, 7-9 p.m. March 11 at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road. The event also features Gina Holmes (“Wings of Glass”), Holly Goddard Jones (“The Next Time You See Me”), Megan Miranda (“Hysteria”) and Margaret Wrinkle (“Wash”).

Charlotte author Kim Boykin hasn’t changed her hairstyle for going on two years now. This is significant, I believe, and if you read Boykin’s debut novel, you’ll see why.

In “The Wisdom of Hair” (Berkley; $15), 19-year-old Zora May Adams leaves her crazy mother and her S.C. mountain home to start a new life. She lands in a town near Myrtle Beach, where she learns to cut, style and color at the state’s best beauty school.

Along the way, she befriends Sara Jane, a classmate whose parents embrace Zora like a second daughter. She also develops a crush on a handsome widower.

I won’t give away the ending. I will say that one relationship proves more enduring than the other.

Boykin told me she drew inspiration for the book’s salon scenes from years spent hanging out at her mom’s place, Betty’s Beauty Salon in New Ellenton, S.C.

But don’t assume you’re reading veiled autobiography. Zora’s fictional parents aren’t stand-ins for Boykin’s parents, Betty and Bryan Standridge, who now live in Fort Mill, S.C. Boykin’s father did not die in a tragic accident and her mother isn’t an alcoholic who dresses like Judy Garland.

In fact, Boykin lived a boring, happy childhood, “which sucks if you’re a writer,” she says on her website ( kimboykin.com), “because you have to create your own kind of crazy.”

But back to Boykin’s hairstyle for a moment. As her novel opens, Zora is explaining the problem with cutting your own hair.

Once you start, she says, “you just keep cutting, trying to fix it, and the truth is, some things can never be fixed. The day of my daddy’s funeral, I cut my bangs until they were the length of those little paintbrushes that come with dime-store watercolor sets. I was nine years old. … I was too young then to know I was changing my hair because I wanted to change my life.”

Boykin, 55, has stuck with the same style since June 2011, when she pitched her unsold novel to New York literary agents and got a great response. She sold it six months later. She had worked on the book for years. It’s the first thing she’s ever published. So, life is good. Why change your hair?

Kelley: 704-358-5271; pkelley@charlotteobserver.com

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