Advanced Essay #2: Black Barbie


Writing this essay really helped me explore what I went through in my years before high school and how I experienced literacy. It helped open my eyes to things I never actually thought about until now. How in schools they try to limit your reading and your literacy to one thing or one culture and same with home. People often look over it without actually realizing what they are doing. I am very proud of how I incorporated my scene of memory into my actual piece and larger idea. Something I can improve on as writer is trying to make connections within my writing and also my use of commas. Both my peers saw that there were times when there could’ve been more of a connection in my writing and where a comma or two could be added. In the future I want to improve on my use of commas and trying to make connection within my writing.

The smell of hot chocolate tiptoed it’s way up the steps and slowly into my room. It wrapped itself around my nose as it pulled me from my sleep. As I woke up all I could think about was that it was Christmas and that thought flooded my five-year-old mind. I jumped out of bed and raced down the steps as if someone was chasing me. The only thing that was chasing me was my excitement. Nothing made me happier than Christmas, the warm clothes, the sweet smell of hot chocolate, oh and of course the presents. How could I forget about the presents? That year the only thing I asked Santa for was a Barbie. Everyone in my school had a Barbie so I knew I just had to have one. When I finally got downstairs all I could see was the huge Christmas tree it was covered in the brightest lights you could ever imagine and the ornaments almost looked like they were made specifically for that tree. The one thing that topped it all off was the tree topper. I’ll never forget it, it was the most radiant star I had ever seen. My grandpa always told me that he pulled it straight from the night sky just for our tree and I believed every word he said.

As I stood there gazing at the beautiful tree my mom yelled at me and said

“Girl, if you don’t come here and open these presents before I have to open them for you.” So I rushed over there and she handed me a nice warm cup of hot chocolate and my first present to open. I don’t know what was more exciting ripping the wrapping paper off or trying to figure out what was inside. When I finally opened the gift I noticed that it was a white box and the only thing that comes in a white box is clothes. Oh, how I hated getting clothes as gifts, it was like eating spaghetti for breakfast, it just wasn’t right. I continued to unwrap my presents scavenging for the only thing I wanted, that Barbie. I finally got to my last present by then I was getting a little anxious. I was praying this last present was my Malibu Barbie I rushed to open it and when I saw that Barbie logo I couldn’t believe it. I took the entire wrapping paper off and when I finally saw her face, she was white. My five-year-old mind thought nothing of it but years and years of getting the same white barbie I started to question “Why don’t they look anything like me?”

   That same question stuck with me throughout my years of elementary school but my love of Barbies turned into my love of books. Same as Barbies, books gave me a separation from reality, they gave me a new world to look into rather than my own. My favorite genre was fiction it opened my eyes to all the different things people could do. I read about people flying in magic school buses, the adventures that the brother and sister went on in their tree house and one of my all time favorites the stories of Junie B. Jones. I couldn’t help but notice that all the books I read none of the characters were anything like me. Sure, it was fun to read about all these different adventures they went on but I didn’t really have a character I connected with. All the books I did read that had some form of a black person in it were limited to minor characters or books about the civil rights movement. In The Apartheid of Children’s Literature Christopher Meyers emphasizes how people of color are used in literature: “characters of color are limited to the townships of occasional historical books that concern themselves with the legacies of civil rights and slavery but are never given a pass card to traverse the lands of adventure, curiosity, imagination or personal growth” Within in all the fiction novels I read about people traveling through time and helping to save the princess there was never one black character or any person of color for that matter. This, of course, gave me a fixed mindset as a child. I knew there were certain things that children of color couldn’t do. Those things being traveling through time, in a magic school bus and going on adventures in treehouses with their siblings.

   This thought transferred itself into my writing as well. As much I loved reading fiction I loved writing it too. Sometimes I found it difficult to try to incorporate myself within my writing. A lot of the things I wanted to talk about I had no idea to, well at least I thought I didn’t. In Write What You Know Heller illustrates how writers shelter themselves without even knowing “— unconsciously censored themselves and thrown out the wheat, mistaking it for nonliterary chaff. In this sense, the reminder to write what you know” Many of the things I tried to write about I believed I had no business writing because I didn’t know anything about it. It wasn’t until high school I actually read books about black people. I finally learned that I don’t have to limit myself or color myself in between the lines. Just because I only read about white people traveling through time fighting dinosaurs doesn’t mean that people of color can’t do the same. Just because I only had white Barbie dolls doesn’t mean the black Barbie wasn’t any prettier. I learned that Literacy doesn’t mean writing about what you know and limiting yourself. It means both writing about what you know and what you don’t know. Extending your knowledge to all regions and opening your mind to the new things in the world.

Works cited: 

Heller, Zoe, and Mohsin Hamid. "‘Write What You Know’ — Helpful Advice or Idle Cliché?" The

New York Times. The New York Times, 29 Mar. 2014. Web.

Meyers, Christopher. "The Apartheid of Children’s Literature."