Brown Girl with Bubblegum

Brown Girl with Bubblegum

11 minutes (2,676 words)

Lisa W. Rosenberg

Illustration by Loveis Wise

As a mixed-race kid with free-form hair, Lisa Rosenberg believed learning to blow bubblegum bubbles would be her ticket to an idealized (white) American girlhood.

My fifth birthday was approaching, and I had one goal: to blow big, beautiful, pink bubbles out of real Bazooka bubble gum. I’d seen it done many times in person as well as captured in storybooks and on television. Bubble-blowing, I understood, was a critical marker of American girlhood — alongside hopscotch, Barbie dolls, and long hair with bangs you could flick out of your eyes with a toss of your head. I remember one image from a magazine: two girls riding bicycles up a tree-lined suburban street, their long, blond hair streaming out behind them in the wind, heads thrown back to relish the dappled sunlight. From the lips of each girl floated a pale pink bubble-gum bubble, half the size of her head. The girls were white, of course. In the ’70s, magazines didn’t show many little brown girls like me — with wild, free-form, biracial hair. I remember gazing and gazing at the picture, admiring those perfect girls with their flawless, pink bubbles. Somehow, someday, that would be me…

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