Monday, August 01, 2016

Everything I Wanted To Know About Barbie

Let's get this out of the way. I am not a Barbie fan. I didn't have a Barbie when I was a child and don't remember caring. I don't even remember hearing about Barbie until my youngest sister got one. I do recall making her doll a red jumpsuit. That was back in the day when I sewed a lot of clothing, compared to now, anyway. But sewing for Barbie was a b-- ...ah... was difficult. Sewing those little tiny seams was hard! By the time I had children, I found Barbie kind of slutty. Yeah, I slut-shamed Barbie. When my younger son was invited to a little girl's birthday party, he instructed me to get her something for Barbie. "She likes Barbie." I walked up and down the aisle of the toy department in some store and kept saying to myself, "I can't buy any of this stuff." I finally got her some kind of a Barbie careers board game. That was the best I could do without feeling dirty.

So why did I read The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie by Tanya Lee Stone? Well, the book looked like a popular history of a pop culture...thing. I like a little history, and I definitely believe popular culture has significance. It deals with how we actually live. Additionally, Tanya Lee Stone is a pretty well-known New England children's writer whose work I hadn't read before. One, two, three reasons to read this book.

Fascinating Bookie Bits


  • The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie begins with very interesting material about Ruth Handler, Barbie creator. Ruth comes up again at the end of the book. Nice bookending. Love when that happens.
  • The Ruth Handler section is classic historical research. Then comes some original research. Stone reports on material she collected from former and sometimes present Barbie owners. I've no idea how, say, sociologists would feel about how this was done but it was very readable.
  • My neighbor, Joan, did have a Barbie. Her big memory (fondest memory?) of playing Barbies with her friends is a word...dismembering...the dollies. According to Stone, that's a thing.

A Great Model For Student Writers

When my kids were in elementary school, I noticed that they rarely were assigned to read the kinds of things they were expected to write. They read novels, but they were expected to write short stories and, more importantly, nonfiction. The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie would be a great model for student writers and student historians.

A Little Added Doll Attraction

This weekend while trying to find podcasts to listen to (I told you about that yesterday), I did find this nice little essay, You Play With Dolls, by Bess Winter at Black Warrior Review.  It seems appropriate to share it here.

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