The irony of transformation often is that we mistake it to have occurred long before it does. Tender Headed takes its time in asserting the realization that growth remains ever ahead of you. Examining the themes of Black identity, accountability, and narration, we encounter a series of revealing snapshots into the role language plays in chiseling possibility and its rigid command of depiction. Olatunde Osinaike’s startling debut sorts through the many-minded masks behind Black masculinity. At its center lies an inquiry about the puzzling nature of relationships, how ceaseless wonder can be in its challenge of a truth. In the name of music and self-identity, the speaker weaves their way through fault and how it amends Black life in America.
This is demonstrated best in how the demanding, yet vulnerable tone for the collection is set in “Men Like Me,” its restless opening poem. Here, we find the speaker reciting a chronicle of generational neglect from men that became him also. Earnest and sharp, there is a beauty in seeing a poet not shy away from both the melancholy and resolve of rescripting their path while cherishing their steps and missteps along the way. This collection is a panel aching of fathers, sons, uncles, grandfathers, all of whom would do well to join in and confront shared privileges that are typically curtailed or altogether avoided in conversation. Tender Headed entrusts the heart to be a compass, insisting on a journey unto itself and a melodic detour toward tenderness precise with its own footing.