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The Barbie Chronicles – Review

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The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty edited by Yona  Zeldis McDonough

Age: Adult

Broken into five categories, Yona Zeldis McDonough compiles a series of essays, poems and memories of the toy doll we all know and love, Barbie. The essays examine Barbie as a role model, as sex object, anti-feminist, pro-feminist, revolutionary, etc.

I really, really enjoyed reading this compilation of thoughts on a doll that I frequently played with as a child. It was interesting to learn about her history and development. Barbie was created by Ruth and Elliot Handler as an Americanized version of a German adult sex doll called Bild Lily for their little daughter who would become the namesake for the famed doll. Each essay offers a different perspective, some more personal than others. Some talk about their own childhood with Barbie, other talk about their children playing with the doll. Some take a more scientific or sociological take on Barbie’s role in history. I think McDonough did a good job of balancing out the pro and con views about Barbie,  some essays with middling feelings about her and some with no feeling at all.

I did feel a bit nostalgic reading through this book. In the 15+ years since I used to play Barbie, all of them have fallen by the wayside. Most had been decapitated, but the ones still intact had been sold via numerous garage sales. While reading this book, I wondered if and what influences Barbie had on me.

I never had to have all of Barbie’s accessories, or clothes that came individually. I think most of my Barbies came as gifts from family other than my parents. They neither fostered nor neglected my joy of this doll. She was something to play with until I got older and moved on to something else, books. I moved on from lonesome Barbie and the stuffed animals to the Babysitter’s Club and Boxcar Children. A collection of stories, ready to go. One way or another, Barbie played a role in my life, she filled a gap of childhood imagination and play that no other doll could.

The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty
edited by Yona Zeldis McDonough
Simon & Schuster, 1999
ISBN 0684862751
240 pages


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