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About Face Poems About Body Image

A project of FlowerSong Press (see other related projects).

Do not submit here! This project is permanently closed to submissions (August 2020). We provide the following information as an archive.


Back in the mid-90s, I attended the San Antonio Inter-American Bookfair & Literary Festival. I’d heard that Sandra Cisneros would be reading from her children’s picture book, Hairs/Pelitos (1994). I was excited to finally meet one of the authors who first introduced me to the idea that I, as subject of a book, existed. Eager to get a good seat, I got to the hall where she’d be presenting early. Early enough to hear a reading by several Latina writers whose work appeared in an brief anthology called Mujeres Grandes. Among the presenters was Josephine Cásarez who performed a piece titled “Brown Trenzas are for Mensas.” She used props and was so very good I was enthralled, and I fell in love with her poetry. It spoke to me, and I knew it would speak to my students in the middle and high school classrooms the moment I showed it to them. In the poem, we meet a young Josephine, known as Pepa, arguing with her mother about wanting to be white like the little girl in the book she’s reading for school. The girl is named Betty. She has a dog named Flip. Her dad dresses up in a suit and tie to go to work. The girl noticeably doesn’t sweat, and she wears her blonde hair in braids. Young Pepa twists a yellow towel and puts it on her head to resemble Betty’s yellow hair. “Mira amá, soy Betty. / Soy Betty. / See my blonde hair?” says Pepa. You can almost hear the desperation in the girl’s voice. She is not Betty, she knows it, but she’s learned in her short years that something about her is “wrong.” Her skin is brown. Her dog is named Chihua. Her father wears a suit, the mother points out, to that funeral last week, remember? Otherwise, he works a blue collar job. And worse than anything, her own trenzas are brown. Pepa’s mother tells her that Betty’s not real, she exists only in your book, (“Ella nomás vive en tu libro”). But this doesn’t seem to comfort Pepa, who still wants blonde braids because “brown trenzas are for mensas” or stupid girls. This is her reality. Sadly, too many young people even today suffer similarly from negative representations of themselves as does Pepa. They come to understand that the way they look or sound or feel is based on the misportrayal by the media, in books they are required to read for school, in books that make the major lists that often take them for granted (because no representation is a very loud representation in itself), and in their every day lives at home, at school, at work, at play, etc. They are daily bombarded with accusations: they are fat, skinny, too tall, too short, effeminate, butch, pimply, dirty, too dark, their hair like (fill in the blank). The list of hurtful names based on the physical goes on and on, unfortunately. Unfortunately, too, is that our kids take these insults to heart; they begin to believe them or believe that they’re deserving of being labeled this or that. This anthology is seeking #ownvoices poems about body image in the spirit of Cázares’ poem aimed at the middle and high school readers.

Country of Publication & Year Established

United States Established in 2020

Publication Medium & Frequency

Print Publication Print PublicationOne-time publication.

Poetry Closed

Open to a broad Audience, including: Middle grades, Young adults, All ethnic groups/populations.
General General
Poetry Forms:
Open to all/most Forms, including: Formal verse, Free verse.
Open to all/most Styles, including: Literary.
Sexuality/Gender (See guidelines), Society/Culture (Ethnicity/Race, Social issues, See guidelines), Other (See guidelines).
TypeLength Details
Poem PoemNo line limits known; Up to 3 pieces.
We list broad pay categories rather than payment specifics. Check with the publisher for details.
No monetary payment No monetary payment.
OK No Unknown Unknown UnknownText format submissions
Always check guidelines for details and restrictions. If you aren't familiar with these terms, see our glossary.

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Last Updated: 08 Aug 2020
Date Added: 08 Jul 2020

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