Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Skin I'm In

The Skin I'm In by Sharon Flake is about Maleeka, a seventh-grade girl at a rough middle school where she is teased daily about everything from the color of her skin to her homemade clothes. On top of the endless taunting, her "friends" take advantage of Maleeka's situation and intelligence and have a power over her that she just wants to break free from. Maleeka knows that she deserves to be treated better, but she has trouble coming out of the shadow's of her classmates and feeling comfortable in her own skin. That is, until a new teacher, Miss Saunders, comes to her school. Miss Saunders has a skin disorder and admits to her students that it has taken her a long time to love the skin she is in. It is her story and support that helps Maleeka start to love her skin, and herself, too. 

Even though I am not African-American, I could easily put myself in Maleeka's shoes. In middle school, I was always one of the kids who followed the rules and did their best at school. During lunch time and study halls, I enjoyed reading for pleasure. This was enough to bring upon the bullying. People would say rude things to me as they passed by or throw paper on my table as I read. Although I dressed pretty similar to my peers, I was not allowed to do a lot of what my peers were able to do. I was often mocked for being "sheltered" or "babied." As I read this book, and got to know Maleeka better, I wished that I had this book to read when I was going through middle school. It would have helped me to realize that I am not the only one out there that feels ashamed of who I am and may have helped me to gain some of the confidence I needed a little sooner. Furthermore, Caleb was another influential character because he shows that no matter what you look like, as long as you are a good person, there will always be someone who cares about you. 


  1. Christina,
    The connection you made to Maleeka's story and your own life speaks volume to how we all feel a little different and are often ridiculed as a result. Whether or not readers share the same exact experience as Maleeka, in terms of being bullied for your skin color, readers will be able to relate to the notion of feeling like an outcast and uncomfortable with aspects of their own life. I too was often bullied for being sheltered and a bit nerdy. Although we try to tell our students that they should not listen to rude comments from peers, we need to acknowledge the fact that this is easier said than done. Maleeka, like many students in middle/high school, dealt with ridicule from her peers on a daily basis; not just because of her skin color but due to her economic status. It was evident that this took a tole on Maleeka. As teachers, we must prepare for such situations and learn how to effectively handle them. No one should have to be bullied due to something that is completely out of their control. Diversity should be accepted in the classroom, not looked down upon. Miss Saunders acts as a teacher who embodies such beliefs. Having a strong role model for a teacher definitely allowed Maleeka to accept the skin she was in, whether she wanted to acknowledge it or not. I hope that we both are able to take the lesson we learned from this book and apply it into our own classrooms someday! :)

  2. I completely agree! Although I think this book is great for our students who may be going through similar experiences as Maleeka or who can relate to her, I think it is even more important for those who are the bully or who can not relate to those experiences/feeling. I think reading about the struggles that Maleeka faces helps them to see just what some people face every day and can empathize with the character. This can then open them up to considering how they treat other people and the words they say or the things that they do.

    One powerful part of the book for me was when Maleeka shared with the class that her father had passed away. Although this didn't lessen the taunting by her peers, I think it was a moment where she was honest and open with who she was with their peers. As a reader, it was an influential moment where I really thought about how much people deal with in their personal life that you may never know. It really emphasizes the point of how important it is to treat people kindly and fairly.

  3. Christina,
    I really appreciate the personal connections you make in the second part of this entry. As you reflected on your experiences, were there any specific lines from the texts or particular interactions between Maleeka and some of the other kids that you found particularly poignant?

  4. Christina, if you read my blog we made a lot of similar connections with this novel! Its a great reminder to keep in mind when we become teachers that students can feel similar things but for different reasons. It makes me questions how to handle the situations when they are so much the same yet so different. I wonder how each of us would have handled Maleeka's situation if we were in Miss. Saunder's place? Miss. Saunder was able to make a connection with Maleeka that she could physically see. I'm afraid if I tried to do the same with Maleeka it wouldn't make as much of an impact.