The Girl from Orchard Park with Alopecia
by Delena Smith
Trafford Publishing

"Growing up that was my "safety net" to me, my hair, and my wigs."

For some women, their hair is considered their crowning glory. Thus it seems a cruel irony that a young, black girl growing up in the Massachusetts city projects, would be afflicted with the ill-fated hair loss disease known as alopecia. This is Delena Smith's story.

As a child, Smith had little knowledge or awareness of her condition. Already dealing with learning disabilities, her sense of alienation was clearly compounded by the disease. While the author is quick to point out that alopecia is not a life-threatening illness, her recollections of wearing childhood wigs, undergoing medical treatments, and enduring relentless taunts offer great insight into the anger and depressive states that often befall alopecia sufferers. Clearly a loving family and a connection to faith helped Smith deal with her problems. Enrollment in karate classes was an attempt to divert the bullying, and modeling school was used to build poise and confidence, though she found it difficult to continue with the latter, as she states, "they wanted everything of mine to really be mine, including my hair." While the teasing continued throughout high school, Smith tackled college course subjects, participated in a work study program, and triumphantly attended the senior prom.

Beyond high school we see Smith as a wife, mother, and grandmother. Through a transitional assistance program she moved often, and experienced neighborhoods tainted with drug dealers, crime, and gang activity. When Smith's own son becomes involved in a criminal lifestyle, the author wisely begins to reflect on obstacles greater than alopecia. On a brighter note she infers working towards a positive future, with dreams of owning a salon for those with alopecia, and creating her own line of wigs.

Smith writes from an extremely personal perspective. For those unfamiliar with the disease, it may seem a simple story. But at the heart of this work, the author looks to connect with fellow alopecia sufferers. Rightfully she emphasizes the need for more education and research into this widespread affliction. Black & white photos often reveal a smiling Smith, the alopecia hidden beneath hair/wig or hat. While Smith's sensitive writing uncovers this ever-present factor in her life, it now seems to have a lesser hold.

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