The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: Our October Book of the Month

Congratulations to readers Ti, Eva-Lani, and Jamie! Each of them won a copy of Tanya Lee Stone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll’s History and Her Impact On Us, our October Book of the Month! Read on for a review of the book and to find out how you can enter to win next month’s book pick with our GoodReads contest!

I still regret giving my Barbies away. I know, I know, a little girl is probably playing with them right now. And, I know that they would just lay stacked in a box in my closet. But, reading this book has made me yearn for those dolls.

Tanya Lee Stone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll’s History and Her Impact on Us, examines the impact that Barbie has had on society. To guide us through Barbie’s significance, Stone uses quotes from young women around ages seven to seventeen, as well as from writers, comediennes, sociologists, and even those within Mattel. From body image to cultural identity, the author poses a basic question about Barbie: “Is she good or is she bad?”

Though this nonfiction is intended for young adults, and the writing is generally bland, I was glad to relive a few Barbie memories of my own and to learn more about the history of the doll I spent so many afternoons with.

Stone begins the story with a background of the woman mainly responsible for Barbie, Ruth Handler. Ruth’s beginnings as one of several children in an immigrant family to becoming president of Mattel in 1967 is a story of pure determination. She developed Barbie after observing how her daughter, named Barbara, and her friend played. By 1959, Barbie was slated to premier at a major toy fair, despite worries that some buyers would be put off by the doll’s obvious feminine shape. Mattel’s net worth was on the line until the Barbie finally caught on the following year.

The book continues into deeper ruminations on the effects Barbie has and can have on its fans. While many of the arguments made by young women state that Barbie inspired imagination and independence, there are as many that claim that the doll damages the psyche of its demographic through representing an unrealistic image. Stone introduces the young adult reader to mature topics such as body image, race, and feminism in ways that do not seem heavy or overwhelming, but definitely thought-provoking for people of any age.

Whether you owned Barbie’s entire wardrobe and car collection or never touched the doll, this book is a worthwhile and light overview of one of the world’s  most popular toys. The book is a quick read for day trip and a great gift for a friend.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts and memories on Barbie?

Win a copy of next month’s Book of the Month!
Interested in joining our Book Smarts group for a chance to win next month’s book of the month? Become our friend on GoodReads! Don’t know about GoodReads? It’s a social networking site that allows book lovers to share their favorite finds.

To enter our giveaway, join our Book Smarts group on GoodReads, and leave us a comment in the discussion titled, “Who’s your favorite literary heroine, and why?”  If you tell us on GoodReads by 11:59 p.m. on November 8th, you’ll be entered to win a copy of November’s book of the month!


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  1. Avatar
    Carissa 10/25/2010 at 11:00 am #

    I miss my barbies! I had to give most of mine away. Me and my sister had TONS! But I kept my absolute favorites safely tucked in the attic. Lol. I couldn’t stand to see them all go. I guess I’ll just hope for daughters so I can play with them again without looking all weird.

  2. Avatar
    Lesley 10/25/2010 at 1:01 pm #

    I can’t wait to check out this book–I’m kinda obsessed with Barbie history:). Thanks for sharing, I can’t wait to hear about next month’s giveaway!

  3. Avatar
    Jamie 10/26/2010 at 4:45 pm #

    I can not wait to get the book! Thanks!

  4. Avatar
    mellen 10/29/2010 at 3:18 am #

    Alright, I have to admit, I’m disappointed in your selection. Why ever would the book club of a blog whose main interest is “INTEREST” pick a book of the month whose writing is “generally bland?” I know you have better stuff up your bell sleeves!

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