Did you ever make new clothes or outfits for your Barbies out of socks? I did. I remember making shirts and skirts for them or using the clothes that my older sisters made for my hand-me-down Barbies. I thought it was really cool that we were being creative, but when I read Sandra Cisneros‘ short story “Barbie Q”, I thought about my childhood in a different perspective.
“Barbie-Q” is a short story about two girls who discuss what Barbies they own, and how they play with them. One day they are walking through a flea market and they both spot Barbies, and they ask their parents or caregivers if they can buy the Barbies for them. They both get them, but the barbies are not in the best condition since the only reason they were on sale was because a toy warehouse burnt down.
I really enjoy the author’s writing because she is able to present the lives of girls but she also makes sure that you capture the girl’s age and personality through their voices.
“Every time the same story. Your Barbie is roommates with my Barbie, and my Barbie’s boyfriend comes over and your Barbie steals him, okay? Kiss kiss kiss. Then the two Barbies fight. You dumbbell! He’s mine. Oh no he’s not, you stinky! Only Ken’s invisible, right? Because we don’t have money for a stupid-looking boy doll when we’d both rather ask for a new Barbie outfit next Christmas.”- from “Barbie Q”, by Sandra Cisneros
What I really like about this passage is that Cisneros allows the reader to feel as though this is not their first time playing with the protagonist. I also like how Cisneros touches on socioeconomic status because even though the protagonist is young, she points out that her family can not afford to buy her many dolls – let alone a Ken doll.
“So what if our Barbies smell like smoke when you hold them up to your nose even after you wash and wash and wash them. And if the prettiest doll, Barbie’s MOD’ern cousin Francie with real eyelashes, eyelash brush included, has a left foot that’s melted a little—so? If you dress her in her new “Prom Pinks” outfit, satin splendor with matching coat, gold belt, clutch, and hair bow included, so long as you don’t lift her dress, right?—who’s to know.”- from “Barbie Q”, by Sandra Cisneros
Cisneros touches on gender, class and socioeconomic status that a reader has to discover on their own. The Barbies that I played with growing up were mostly white, and unlike the protagonist I did not know anything about their clothes. However, I remember my family hanging the collectible Barbies on the wall because they were beautiful.
Through this playful story the reader is placed in another world, an innocent world where playing with Barbies seems like the main focus. When in reality the story is filled with real-world issues.