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Skin Tones

Latin Heritage Month Contest Runner Up

CAS for Database

Cordelia Scoville

Los Angeles, CA, USA

Harvard-Westlake School


Skin Tones

My grandmother’s features look as if they might lift from her any moment, on a gust of wind or up to the sky, evaporating under an orange sun. She has light blue eyes, blonde hair

and an accent that shows itself in not just the way her words form, but in the ones she chooses:

          Carefully constructed phrases drop deliberately from her lips to land on ears

that do not recognize the way her mind turns,

a mind that has never been

at peace since Argentina. She has learned to love for Argentina:

          When her brothers and sisters were stripped one by one away

          she learned to love

          the last one for the way her fingers spread and eyes

          opened when she expressed joy; Argentine expressions keep my grandmother tethered to a dream across the ocean

My mother’s father left

my mother with brown skin and no echoes

of the lives lived long before her, so she

was raised away from

          Mexico, like a secret

eyes averted

Because the 1880 Irish

and Italians crowded

into Argentina, bright white,

and because

smooth coffee skin

skipped one generation, my mother

always did her hair, painted

her nails before she dug her hands

into playground sand and dirt and pushed her toddler

in a stroller

to avoid the question: Are you

          the nanny?


This piece was impactful! It draws the reader into the throes of ethnic perspective, stigma and heritage. All the while keeping a consistent cadence that oscillates between the truths and pains of skin and culture.


Cordelia Scoville is a sophomore at Harvard-Westlake in Los Angeles, California. Her work has been published or is forthcoming at Skylight Books and Polyphony Lit, and has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and the Writopia Lab 2026 Youth Essay Conference.

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