Alaina Wang, 19 is currently a student at the University
of Pennsylvania, Im continually amazed by the richness and diversity
of the Asian American experience. "China Doll" provides a whimsical
glimpse into the mind of a child, detailing the way girls may come
to terms with their Asian features, which so often contrast with the
media-defined ideal of beauty. My experiences growing up and slowly
becoming race conscious inspired me to write this story. I hope to
evoke a sense of familiarity and understanding from people who may
have also experienced these feelings.
West Windsor, New Jersey
Excerpt from from Yell-Oh Girls!:
Emerging Voices Explore Culture, Identity, and Growing Up Asian
American by Vickie Nam (Editor)
I wanted Princess Barbie, with long blond hair
that you could brush and a beautiful shiny gown. She even came with
a shimmery white tiara, which, in my eight-year-old mind, crowned
her at the top of her Barbie world. My parents looked at me expectantly
as I tore through the wrapping paper in childlike excitement. As
the pile of shredded paper around me grew larger, so did my anticipation.
But instead of a beautiful princess with golden
tresses, what I found was an unfamiliar black-haired "friend" of
Barbie, who wore a floral wrap skirt over a pink bathing suit.
Disappointment passed over my eyes as I examined
the doll more closely. With her dark hair and slanted eyes, she
was a dull comparison to her blond friend. My other dolls were all
alike and beautiful with their clouds of blond (or light-brown)
hair, broad, toothy smiles, and wide-open eyes. Even Ken had a perfectly
painted-on coif of blond hair and flashed a winning grin. I didn't
think this new doll would go riding in Barbie's convertible with
Ken. Why would he pick her when he already had so many blond friends
to choose from? Besides, instead of a wide movie-star grin, her
lips were curved into a more secretive, sly smile. I wondered what
secrets she was hiding. Maybe she had crooked teeth,
I announced that I loved my new doll. I didn't
want my mom and dad to feel bad. Maybe the store didn't have any
more Princess Barbie dolls, so they had to buy me the leftovers,
or the ones that no one wanted. I looked at the name of this new
black-haired addition to my perfect Barbie family. Kira. Kira didn't
even have shoes, though her feet were still arched up, as if they
were waiting expectantly for their missing shoes. She seemed incomplete.
She was probably missing lots of things beside her shoes. My other
Barbies all had colorful plastic high heels to complement their
fashionable dresses. Their outfits were perfect.
"Alaina," my mom said, "Get your things ready
so I can drive you over to Sarah's house!" I threw the dark-haired
doll into my backpack with the other Barbies I was bringing; Sarah
and I always shared the latest additions to our Barbie collections.
Everyone always said that Sarah would grow up to look like Goldie
Hawn, some famous movie star. I didn't think I would grow up to
look like anybody important, not unless I was like Cinderella, and
a fairy godmother went Zap! so I could be transformed, like magic.
Sarah's hair fell in soft waves down her back, while my own black
hair was slippery and straight, like uncooked spaghetti. I bet Sarah
had gotten the Princess Barbie for Christmas.
I liked going over to Sarah's house. Her mom
didn't care if we ate raspberries from the backyard without washing
them. The last time I went there, I saw my best friend pluck a juicy
purple berry right off the bush and into her mouth. I was amazed
that she didn't care about dirt. Sarah's mom let us taste cookie
dough from the batter when she baked cookies. I guess only Chinese
people cared about germs. My mother never baked cookies anyway.
Baking cookies is what white mothers do all the time -- they like
to make things from "scratch" that turn out soft and chewy, while
Chinese mothers buy cookies from the supermarket that are dry and
go crunch, unless you dip them in milk. Sarah's mother made the
best macaroni and cheese too. Obviously she made it from "scratch."
I hoped I was eating lunch there today.
After we pulled into Sarah's driveway, I jumped
out of the car and said good-bye to my mom. Inside, Sarah and I
ran up the stairs so I could look at her new dollhouse. On the way,
we passed piles of laundry warm from the dryer, toys spread out
the floor in front of the TV, and newspapers scattered on the kitchen
table. I was jealous. Sarah's mother probably didn't make them clean
up every time someone came over.
Upstairs, I dumped my Barbies out of my backpack
so we could compare our collections. Before I could even look at
her dolls, Sarah turned to me.
"Look what I got!" she said proudly.
I knew it. Sarah had gotten the Princess Barbie.
And what did I have to show her? A plain Barbie
friend with a funny name, Kira, in an ordinary bathing suit and
a skirt that was just a piece of cloth that needed to be tied; it
didn't even slip on like real clothes. My doll had straight black
hair, no shoes, and worst of all, she didn't even know how to smile
"Well ... she has pretty flowers on her skirt,"
Sarah said helpfully. 'And she looks kind of like you!"
She did? But I didn't want to look like this
strange new "friend" of Barbie. Everyone knew that the Barbies with
the blond hair were the best. They were the original ones. And they
always got to wear the prettiest dresses. I noticed something, but
I didn't want to say it out loud. The best dolls, the most glamorous
ones, were always the ones that seemed to look like Sarah.
"Sarah, honey," her mom called. "Why don't you
help me bring up some cookies for you and Alaina?"
My best friend turned to me. "I'll be right
back!" she chirped. "If you want to, your dolls can try on Princess
Barbie's clothes," she offered generously.
Sarah skipped out of the room, her blond pigtails
swinging around her head. I turned to my Kira doll, regarding her
simple outfit. I highly doubted that Princess Barbie's costume would
look right on her. Whoever heard of a black-haired doll with slanted
eyes wearing a crown? Maybe it wouldn't even fit right. Hesitatingly,
I picked up Sarah's Princess Barbie. She really was beautiful. Slowly,
I slipped off her gown and dressed her in one of the extra doll
outfits, a shiny purple top and silver pants. Princess Barbie continued
smiling blankly at me. I was glad she didn't mind that I had changed
Carefully, I buttoned my Kira doll into the
glittery princess gown. No Velcro closures here; this dress was
glamorous, like what a princess would wear in real life. The sunlight
through Sarah's bedroom window made the dress sparkle, as if my
plain dark-haired Kira doll was actually a princess. The doll's
secretive smile began to comfort me, as if we shared a secret together.
We both knew this wasn't her real gown, but maybe she could be princess
for a day. Just maybe. I stared at her. Finally I placed Barbie's
iridescent tiara on top of Kira's jet-black hair. And what do you
know? It fit perfectly.
Above Text © 2001, HarperCollins Publishers.
the Exclusive AllHip Interview of
Editor Vickie Nam where she talks about her experiences
as a journalist, about editing the book, experiences growing up
Asian in America, her thoughts on Pop Culture, Mentors and on finding
her voice and personal mission.
Story About the Book
Yell-Oh Girls! Editor Vicki Nam Discusses the genesis
of the book.
Read Excepts from
the Book Yell-Oh Girls!
Alaina Wang Excerpt: "China Doll"