Death By Comb by Camari Carter (Book Review)

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the living room plant forgotten, dry, and withered we are much alike
— Camari Carter, Plant (a haiku), from Death By Comb

With a few paint cracks in the cover, my autographed copy of Death by Comb is in excellent, used condition. To me, it looks worn and ragged, but I'm sure no one else would even give it a second thought. I have carried this book on my person daily since I acquired it a week ago. It has moved with me from room-to-room as I complete my daily tasks. You never know when you'll have a spare second to read. I don't even break the spine on my books, but that's another story. This story (review) is about my week on Camari Carter's journey.

Not that this has anything to do with the content of her work, but I didn't like the cover art. By the time I had held a book in my hand, I had already heard her perform some of her poetry and had a very brief chat with her. This cover art was not her. I mean, yes, it is a picture of her. But it was not a representation of the woman I had met. Camari was radiant. She had a smile that never ended and humility that went on for days. When it called for, her voice could boom. This photograph was sad and broken. Damaged in a way the person on stage was not. But cover art gives you a glimpse into the story and sets you up with the content.


In preparation of talking about my favorite poems, I would mark each one with a small page tab. I didn't think I was going to use so many page markers. I thought I would be able to choose three (maybe?) and build a review around what those favorites meant to me. After a while, I realized I loved too many of them to separate a poem from the larger body of work. This is a testament to Camari building her book around a transition and ensuring the reader moves through with ease. The first page gives simple directions to read it straight through, so I did.

Excerpt of The Fear List

The voice in my head did not do justice to the cadence and tone she chooses to tell her story. My internal voice is boring. Once I got past that, I was constantly mesmerized by the words and ideas she presented. I could feel the strain on my own scalp as I read "TV Hair vs. My Hair." The long paragraphs or lists challenged my idea of poetry structure, in a good way. Some poems told of specific events we could see she wished to forget. Others celebrated philosophical ideas with wisdom and grace. Of course, some were about hair, but not really about hair. These poems and this book are about forgiveness and gratefulness and loving yourself. I too found gratefulness at the end of this book.

Women are anointed to give plenty from empty hands. -We Women Are Enough

When I was invited to Camari's book release, my friend joked "this could be good for your blog." She was more right than she might have realized. My goal for Black and Bookish is to show the diversity of the black experience, and Death by Comb is a perfect example of black female resilience. Camari's identity as a woman and black American flows through her work, especially in "What Is It Like To Be Black?", "The New Black", and "My Run-in With The Cops." I wondered how strange it was that she can articulate thoughts I have mostly had with myself. Some of her sentiments echo my own, and she has unfortunately experienced some things I have only feared. In pure Black Girl Magic, Camari Carter masterfully moved past her own pain to share her peace, both on the page and in real life.


If you would like to learn more about Camari, check out her site and buy her book! You can also follow her various social media platforms, and sign up for her newsletter for writing tips!