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In The Skin I'm in by Sharon Flake, Maleeka, now a seventh-grader, spends much of her schooling trying to be someone she is not. Her low self-esteem causes her to believe that she attracts all the wrong people as if "someone stuck a note on my forehead saying, losers wanted here." She is deeply affected by the perception of others, suggesting that she (and her teacher Miss Saunders) is the type of person that other "folks can't help but tease" and instead of dismissing their attempts to bully and ridicule her, she tries desperately to find ways to protect herself from the bullying which only leads to more bullying by the very person who is supposed to stand up for her. Char is not a good choice for a friend because she is a bully herself and associating with her will only intensify Maleeka's negative feelings about herself. Maleeka thinks of the school on the other side of town and reflects that there are "no almond Joy-colored girls like me" but her friend points out that it is all about attitude when she says, "It’s about how you feel about who you are that counts."
Maleeka is bullied because of her skin tone, not her skin color. She knows that she is intelligent, even a "math-wiz" with a very good memory but she thinks that everyone only sees "the darkest, worse-dressed thing in school. I’m also the tallest, skinniest thing you ever seen." Miss Saunders who understands how Maleeka feels tells her that her skin is "like a blueblack sky after it’s rained..." but John-John uses that as an opportunity to tease her more making up a song about her "... she so black, baboom, boom, boom, we just can’t see her..." Only later will Maleeka discover that John-John has always been jealous of her and that he has his own issues to deal with. Maleeka's journal helps her to deal with many of her own issues and she eventually comes to recognize her bad choices and change her perception. As she says, "If you don’t like me, too bad ‘cause black is the skin I’m in."
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