Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty

The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty

3.7 24
by Yona Zeldis McDonough (Editor), Erica Jong (Essay By), Anna Quindlen (Essay By), Jane Smiley (Essay By), Meg Wolitzer (Essay By)

See All Formats & Editions

To some she's a collectible, to others she's trash. In The Barbie Chronicles, twenty-three writers join together to scrutinize Barbie's forty years of hateful, lovely disastrous, glorious influence on us all. No other tiny shoulders have ever, had to carry the


To some she's a collectible, to others she's trash. In The Barbie Chronicles, twenty-three writers join together to scrutinize Barbie's forty years of hateful, lovely disastrous, glorious influence on us all. No other tiny shoulders have ever, had to carry the weight of such affection and derision and no other book has ever paid this notorious little place of plastic her due. Whether you adore her or abhor her, The Barbie Chronicles will have you looking at her in ways you never imagined.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Caroline Preston author of Jackie by Josie From the spring day in 1959 when I dumped my Ginny doll for the new flashy babe on the block, I have adored Barbie. When she was finally exposed as a sexist stereotype, my adoration, undiminished, went underground. The Barbie Chronicles celebrates our complex forty-year love/hate relationship toward the world's most irresistible doll.

Hilton Als author of The Women The pieces and poems in this book so rich in insight and wit, mean so much — to cultural and political studies, to the life of the mind, to those who have given thought of affection to this strange and strangely alluring figure which, despite her initial docility, refuses to remain seated on anyone's shelf.

Faye Moskowitz author of A Leak in the Heart Whatever your position on the world's most persistent posable piece of plastic, you'll find much to intrigue you in this provocative collection that examines Barbie from all angles — with perspicacity and panache.

Albert Mobilio winner of The National Book Critics Circle Award for Excellence in Reviewing Equal parts celebration, confession, and investigation, The Barbie Chronicles takes shrewd measure of just how much we are what we buy.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Since her birth at the hands of Ruth and Elliot Handler in 1959, Barbie has been decried for her bad influence on girls' self-esteem and become the object of praise for her ability to elevate girls' play beyond baby dolls and kitchen sets. Though she's only a molded hunk of plastic, Barbie has wielded a curious amount of power over the last 40 years. McDonough (Tying the Knot) attempts to present differing points of view about Barbie, but the overall tone is one of admiration, even from the doll's critics. Anna Quindlen wistfully imagines driving a silver lam stake between Barbie's perfect breasts, while Ann duCille discusses issues of race and conformity, positioning Barbie at the center of what's wrong with the doll section of toy stores. Other essayists strike a gentler tone: Jane Smiley, Erica Jong, Carol Shields and Steve Dubin see the dark side of what the doll could represent to young girls, but recapture the original, guilty delight they felt when posing, defacing and, predominantly, undressing her. This well-chosen group of writers artfully explores the world that created Barbie, the childhood selves the authors remember and the meaning behind one of our era's most controversial pieces of plastic. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
No longer just a child's plaything, "Barbie has become an icon and a fetish--to some angelic, to others depraved." In honor of Barbie's 40th birthday, McDonough (Tying the Knot) has collected 20 stories and five poems in one volume: Steven Dubins's essay on Barbie's origins as a German pornographic doll; Jane Smiley on Barbie's "genius," which took girls from big hairdos and pink jeans to women's self-knowledge and rights; Anna Quindlen on her desire to "drive a stake through Barbie's plastic heart"; and a lots of essays with priceless titles ("Barbie Does Yom Kippor" and "Sex and the Single Doll"). Speaking largely to today's 30- to 45-year-olds, the varying intellectual and emotional perspectives here make for an engaging blend of idiosyncratic remarks and in-depth social commentary. Comparable in its irreverent style to Adios, Barbie: Young Women Write About Body Images and Identity (Seal Pr.-Feminist,1998); recommended for public and academic libraries.--Kay Meredith Dusheck, Univ. of Iowa, Anamosa Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A collection of essays, and some poems, about the posable plastic icon at the 40th anniversary of her creation. Everyone has an opinion about the Barbie doll. Created in 1959 by the founders of Mattel (and named for their daughter Barbara), she was the first American-made doll to represent the world beyond the nursery, and if her proportions are unreal, her influence on millions of little girls, as well as on popular culture, is indisputable. McDonough, whose 1997 essay in the New York Times Magazine was the jumping off point for this book (and who is a former Kirkus contributor), has herein gathered a diverse and mostly talented group of writers to celebrate, denigrate, and otherwise explain what Barbie has come to stand for in American society. Exemplifying as it did the conflicted mores of the late 1950s, with her body that, while obviously sexual, lacks nipples or genitals, the creation of the Barbie doll also coincided with the second wave of feminism and the surge of the civil rights movement. The best essays in this collection discuss Barbie as seen through the lenses of sexuality, gender, and race. In "Barbie Meets Bouguereau," Carol Ockman places Barbie's body in context of other idealized notions of feminine beauty. In "Black Like Me," Ann duCille explores the Mattel company's many attempts to create Barbie dolls of color and realizes that the message of their packaging, meant to convey black pride, "is clearly tied to bountiful hair, lavish and exotic clothes, and other external signs of beauty, wealth, and success." Sherrie Inness points out that Barbie alone, in contrast to other dolls on the market, represents independent single women and their diverse career options.Good, bad, or indifferent, there's obviously still fun to be had in playing with Barbie dolls. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
0.57(w) x 5.50(h) x 8.50(d)

Read an Excerpt


When I first sat down in the summer of 1997 to pen a piece about Barbie, I imagined writing a wry, affectionate defense of the sexy little doll who seemed to be getting so much bad press. Little did I know how Barbie had changed in the three decades since she and I had parted company. I didn't really understand the fantastic impact she had made on American culture during those years nor the maelstrom of controversy that her mere name seemed to elicit. But the publication of my essay on the back page of The New York Times Magazine filled me in quickly: Barbie had been busy all this time, what with her brand-new professions, newly reconfigured face, hair, and, yes, even body.

Ever since her 1959 debut, Barbie has been an amazingly popular doll. Created by Ruth and Elliot Handler in the late 1950s and named for their daughter, Barbara, Barbie has her origins in the German Lilli doll, a quasi-pornographic toy intended for men. The Handlers cleaned her up and toned her down before presenting her to the American market, but her inherent sexuality — so stunning in a world of baby dolls and little girl dolls — remained intact, just waiting for a generation of American children to discover her.

Discover and fall head over heels in love. Her phenomenal success in the intervening years has spawned enough Barbie dolls to populate a small planet, to say nothing of the ancillary characters — Skipper, Francie, Midge, Ken, Allan, and Kelly — that fill her world.

The girls who played with the very first Barbies are now grown, with Barbie-toting daughters of their own. But Barbie continues to exert a hold on their imaginations, as well as the imaginations of the boys who watched — envious, disdainful, titillated, curious — as their sisters, cousins, friends, and neighbors dressed, and undressed, their sexy, ever-so-adult-looking dolls.

Forty years after her debut, Barbie is big news and big business. Millions of dolls, clothes, accessories, and paraphernalia are bought and sold every year. There are Barbie conventions, fan clubs, Web sites, and scores of publications.

There is also, I soon discovered, a whole new literature of Barbie that emerged in the shadow of the consumer frenzy she created. She has inspired novelists and poets, commentators and journalists, and academics from a wide range of fields. No longer just a child's toy, Barbie has become an icon and a fetish — to some angelic, to others depraved. And as such, she serves as a kind of springboard for a whole range of cultural discourse, some philosophical and reflective, some lighthearted and appreciative, some furious and damning.

The Barbie Chronicles both grows out of and adds to the current conversation about Barbie. In it, I have included twenty essays and five poems written from varying intellectual perspectives as well as differing emotional ones. Some are original works commissioned specifically for this volume; others are reprinted from existing material. But whatever the take on Barbie is, it is never neutral.

Anna Quindlen proposes driving a stake through Barbie's plastic heart, while Melissa Hook remembers her as a conduit through which she could connect with her frosty and distant grandmother. For these writers, Barbie has a talismanic power, one that illuminates both the world without and the self within. Here then are stories that will, I hope, shed a little more light on the meaning of America's most beloved, most notorious piece of posable plastic.

Copyright © 1999 by Simon & Schuster

Meet the Author

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of the novels THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS and IN DAHLIA’S WAKE. She is also the editor of the essay collections THE BARBIE CHRONICLES: A LIVING DOLL TURNS FORTY and ALL THE AVAILABLE LIGHT: A MARILYN MONROE READER. Her short fiction, articles, and essays have been published in anthologies as well as in numerous national magazines, and newspapers. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Barbie is a very inspiring icon, displaying good health, eagerness, and a can-do spirit. She is a true american, following the american dream. I only read the sample but it was most informative. From research it is saddening to read how much people hate poor barbie. This book explains why barbie has such a huge impact. Go barbie! Barbiegirl1399
Mary Godoy More than 1 year ago
If u say nobody likes barbie u wrong casue u boughg it. It ok tho.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book sample is 41 pages long and it only lots me read to 36
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have you guys heard or seen the rel life barbie. Its scary how fake sh looks and the she dtarts speaking Russian! Aslo check out the real life anime girl. You could she them in the mall together (the actually hang out!) and crap you pants
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is awsome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shes awesome i wish she was alive!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Apperently my grandma bought me one of those mellenium princess barbies when I was little, 'cause she just gave it to me and I love it! She has the most ornate blue ballgown with silver trim! I swear I will keep her forever!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I play with Barbie and Ken all the time too
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I always play with barbie. And I play with her and Ken :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wheres the details
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Who ever dont like barbie is a hater cuz i love barbie:0
Eric Biederman More than 1 year ago
truu daat i love it a alot ! (;
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
While I wouldn't write 'The Barbie Chronicles' off as a total loss, I certainly wouldn't say I took anything away from it either. Nothing in this book made me think any differently or change my opinions about anything. It is basically a series of essays, some of which hail Barbie as the pinnacle of feminine pride, and some of which condemn her to burn at the stake. Personally, I found it laughable that some people could feel so strongly about such a material issue. The book is worth reading if you study womens' studies or are interested in that field of study.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is shocking to learn that such a tiny doll could have such a huge impact on the way most little girls grow up. Instead of other baby dolls that direct girls towards motherhood, Barbie invites us to take a closer look at ourselves, and at what we can become as individuals. Barbie in herself is a course in the psychological development of young girls (and boys). My favourite essay is one entitled 'Barbie In Black And White', in which professor Ann DuCille explores the lack of ethnicity in Barbie-land. This book is an absolute must for any grown up boy or girl that has ever owned a Barbie doll, who has ever wondered about her plastic ways.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have been a Barbie collector for my whole life and am always fascinated by the strong emotions even the mention of her name elicites. This book presents the story of how many different people's lifes have been touched by Barbie- positive or negative. It will make you look at Barbie in a whole different way because it goes beyond the typical opinions one hears about her and her impact on society is examined in a non-biased way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really if you are a goth then buy it use the doll to for your gruge so you dont get pist at a ditz for a girl you use it for play for thearpy to use for i dont now use your imagian and if you really wanted to use it to make youtube videos
Shantea Roberson More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bad book
Rita Hughes More than 1 year ago
got bored this book is freakin stupid hate it to death no one likes barbies at all