Children's, Family dynamics, Feel-Good, Fiction, Haddix-Margaret Peterson, Social Commentary

#419 Because of Anya by Margaret Petersen Haddix

Because of Anya by Margaret Petersen HaddixBecause of Anya by Margaret Petersen Haddix

What do you do when you have alopecia? You cry, that’s what you do. Anya has alopecia and she cries and her parents cry, but Anya is also embarrassed by the whole thing.

Keely goes to school with Anya. Keely hangs with a group of friends that Anya is not a part of. Stef is the ringleader of the group of friends. One day Stef passes a note to Keely. She thinks that Anya is wearing a wig. None of the girls know for sure, but almost immediately rumors of cancer start circulating around.

Anya is having a very hard time with the wig. She has been diagnosed with Alopecia Areta. She does not have cancer. All of her hair fell out and she may never get it back. Anya doesn’t want anyone at school to know she is wearing a wig.

Her parents are sick with worry over the whole thing. They don’t know how this could have happened to Anya.

Stef wants to pull the wig to see if it’s really a wig. Keely thinks that would be mean. One day in gym class, Anya’s wig comes off. She runs all the way home and is embarrassed. What she finds out is that people don’t care as much as she thought they would.

What I liked

Poor Anya. Hair loss among women is a taboo subject. No one wants to talk about it. To fit the feminine ideal of beauty women are supposed to have hair on their heads. A woman feels out of place without hair and alone. I’m glad that someone wrote a book about alopecia. It would definitely be very hard for a young girl to have this condition. I’m glad that Anya’s classmates warmed up to her and chose not to treat her so differently.

What I didn’t like

Alopecia is awful. I don’t like that anybody has it. You may think, “It’s just hair.” It’s a big deal. It’s awful, awful, awful, awful. There are more forms of alopecia than the author mentions in this book; she left out androgenic alopecia in her list. Androgenic alopecia is often caused by hormonal disorders and autoimmune diseases. I think having alopecia areta would be more difficult because the hair disappears in little circular patches and not in general areas. It would be terrible to have a quarter sized patch of hair gone.

No matter what happy ending this book has people are still jerks about women and girls not having hair. A man can walk around with out hair just fine, but if a woman starts doing it people automatically label her weird or imbalanced. Why did she shave her head? Does she have cancer? What’s the deal? People just can’t accept that a woman doesn’t have hair on her head for some normal reason, like maybe she doesn’t want to have hair there or maybe she has alopecia. Britney Spears shaved her head and people flipped their lids. Give the woman a break. If she wants to shave her head, she can. Dolly Parton wears wigs one after the other, but Dolly Parton isn’t any less of a Dolly Parton because she does so.

The fact of the matter is that Anya would grow up and there would be men who would not date her because she doesn’t have hair. Those men are jerks for having that attitude, but that attitude isn’t entirely their fault. It’s a societal expectation of women to have hair, an unrealistic societal expectation. It’s an unrealistic beauty standard. Some women have alopecia totalis. Some women have alopecia areta. Some women have androgenic alopecia. They don’t have as much hair on their heads as they would like and it’s really difficult for them. Don’t be jerks about it.

If a woman doesn’t have hair, or she is wearing a hat, or she is wearing a wig, honestly, it’s none of your business and you have no right to say anything about it. You shouldn’t be sticking your nose up in their business and asking them why they’re wearing a hat or why they’re wearing a wig.

And for that matter, it should generally be more socially acceptable for women to wear hats. Hats are made for a reason. I don’t understand when it became this thing that hats were unprofessional.

You know part of the reason having a condition like alopecia is so tough is that you can’t hide it; a girl going to school especially couldn’t hide it. Schools have all these STUPID dress code rules that children cannot wear hats and that they cannot wear certain hair styles, blah, blah, blah. A little girl would know her school’s dress code and would know that hats are not allowed. Maybe there’s a special exclusion for diseases, but then the teachers have to know and the principal has to know. Teachers aren’t bound to confidentiality agreements the same as a doctor or a lawyer would be, even though theoretically it should be that way. Some of the teachers are going to whisper, even if they shouldn’t. Eventually it’s going to get around. Kids are going to find out. Kids are going to know anyway if the dress code states that no one can wear a hat unless there is a medical condition involved. They’re going to know something is off. Why does society make things so hard on people with disease? Why? Why do we have to be such jerks about all of this?

Good Lord, just accept that people are different and they’re not going to look or dress exactly like you for reasons of their own.

In a perfect world Anya could walk into class with a bald head and people would be like, “Eh,” and move on with what they were doing. She wouldn’t be labeled as disruptive just because she was missing hair.


It’s a bit saccharine, but this book is something important. It tells an important story.

Weigh in

Considering current school trends to label students as disruptive if they look too extreme (deemed by arbitrary school dress code standards), and you had a child with alopecia would you allow your child to go to a public school? Why or why not?

As a more personal question, do you automatically think something is wrong with a woman, physically or mentally, if she doesn’t have hair on her head?


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