Reenu-You by Michele Tracy Berger
New York City, August 1998.
On a muggy summer day, five women wake up to discover purple scab-like lesions on their faces—a rash that pulses, oozes, and spreads in spiral patterns. City clinic doctors dismiss the women’s fears as common dermatitis, a regular skin rash. But as more women show up with the symptoms, one clear correlation emerges: an all-natural, first-of-its-kind hair relaxer called Reenu-You.
As the outbreak spreads, and cases of new rashes pop up in black and latino communities throughout New York, panic and anger also grows. When the malady begins to kill, medical providers and the corporation behind the so-called hair tonic face charges of conspiracy and coercion from outraged minority communities and leaders across the country.
At the heart of the epidemic are these five original women; each from different walks of life. As the world crumbles around them, they will discover more about each other, about themselves, and draw strength to face the future together.
Michele Tracy Berger is a professor, a creative writer, and a pug-lover. Her fiction has appeared in UnCommon Origins: A Collection of Gods, Monsters, Nature and Science by Fighting Monkey Press; You Don’t Say: Stories in the Second Person by Ink Monkey Press; Flying South: A Literary Journal; 100wordstory; Thing Magazine; and The Red Clay Review. Her nonfiction writing and poetry has appeared in The Chapel Hill News, The Red Clay Review, Glint Literary Journal, Oracle: Fine Arts Review, Trivia: Voices of Feminism, The Feminist Wire, Ms., Carolina Woman Magazine, and Western North Carolina Woman, A Letter to My Mom, and various zines. Michele is completely undone by the sight of pugs and has to restrain herself from collecting any item they appear on. Michele is a trustee of the North Carolina Writers' Network. She lives in Pittsboro with her partner Tim.