Writing

She’s skinny, white, and blond. She’s Barbie—an icon of femininity to generations of American girls. She’s also multiethnic and straight—or so says Mattel, Barbie’s manufacturer. But, as Barbie’s Queer Accessories demonstrates, many girls do things with Barbie never seen in any commercial. Erica Rand looks at the corporate marketing strategies used to create Barbie’s versatile (She’s a rapper! She’s an astronaut! She’s a bride!) but nonetheless premolded and still predominantly white image. Rand weighs the values Mattel seeks to embody in Barbie—evident, for example, in her improbably thin waist and her heterosexual partner—against the naked, dyked out, transgendered, and trashed versions favored by many juvenile owners and adult collectors of the doll.

 

In The Ellis Island Snow Globe, Erica Rand, author of the smart and entertaining book Barbie’s Queer Accessories, takes readers on an unconventional tour of Ellis Island, the migration station turned heritage museum, and its neighbor, the Statue of Liberty. By pausing to reflect on what is and is not on display at these two iconic national monuments, Rand focuses attention on whose heritage is honored and whose obscured. She also reveals the shifting connections between sex, money, material products, and ideas of the nation in everything from the ostensible father-mother-child configuration on an Ellis Island golf ball purchased at the gift shop to the multi-million dollar July 4, 1986 Liberty Weekend extravaganza celebrating the Statue’s centennial just days after the Supreme Court’s un-Libertylike decision upholding the antisodomy laws challenged in Bowers v. Hardwick.

 

In her forties, Erica Rand bought a pair of figure skates to vary her workout routine. Within a few years, the college professor was immersed in adult figure skating. Here, in short, incisive essays, she describes the pleasures to be found in the rink and the exclusionary practices that make those pleasures more accessible to some than to others. Throughout the book, Rand situates herself as a queer femme, describing her mixed feelings about participating in a sport with heterosexual storylines and rigid standards about gender appropriate costumes and moves.