Elevate Difference

Submerged: Tales from the Basin

“We’re not popsicles; we’re people,” writes Leslie Gonzalez, one of the contributors to Submerged: Tales from the Basin, a prose and poetry collection about hair and how this physical extension of women’s auras complicates and confirms our place in this life.

While reading the eloquent pieces contributed by various writers to create this book that benefits victims of Hurricane Katrina, I was reminded of my own hair, and how my opinion of it has been influenced by my connection, or disconnection, to who I am. 

In junior high, I would start my bedtime prayers with the hope that my hair would be okay in the morning (followed by ending the war in Vietnam and bringing Patty Heart home unharmed). As I read Submerged, this memory surfaced along with the realization that I was really praying that the adolescent me would be okay, among the chattering students of the various—and in the '70s—often feuding groups that populated our school and the struggling outside world.

Editor Lauren Gonzalez pulled together these works, asking authors to focus on the theme of hair, and what emerges is a commonality between all women, not just those who have contributed to the book. We have all blessed and cursed the days when our hair meets society’s standards, and felt the ethnocentrism of hair prejudice, even within a specific cultural group. The writers have all come to a point of acceptance to be who they are internally, making this book an excellent choice to share with anyone who is currently experiencing a “bad hair cycle.”

The poem "The Bazaz Curse" by Ellen Hagan, speaks of hair that’s “a puff of awkward,” a place that everyone has been whether their age is in single or double digits. I especially want to mention "The Jewish Girl Dreams of Hitchcock Hair," a standout piece that can work on stage as well as page. Author Miriam Webb’s final point, “It’s the tragedy of the relentlessly beautiful/to be relentlessly pursued,” sums up not only the dilemma of film heroines, but the predicament of anyone society dubs “beautiful.”  The shiksappeal (referencing the television show Seinfeld) of “manageable hair” resonates throughout the poem reminding us that we must accept banes and blessings when we are defined as lovely. There’s always someone in pursuit, and it could be our inner critic, out to get us. The connection we have to our hair and how it projects who we are to the world is explored in this book in an accessible fashion that anyone can relate to.

Written by: Cheryl Ellis, March 28th 2009

I was just sulking about my hair--how confusing it can be to know/decide how to handle it. I've been thinking I want to grow it long--but I just cut it over and over again in my bathroom, starting last spring, because of the heat. Because short hair is more comfortable than long. So if I let it grow and grow--is it for me? Or for others? Sadly, sometimes even when you question it it's hard to discern what's really going on. "Submerged" certainly sounds relevant to many of us.