For more than 35 years, American Girl has been creating dolls that reflect the lives of real girls and this year, the company’s “Girl of the Year” gives representation to Asian-American girls. The new American Girl doll is Corinne Tan, a Chinese-American girl that comes from a blended family.
As with all American Girl characters, Corinne comes with a book series. But in her series, Corinne deals with racism. Wendy Shan, author of the series, told CBSN on Monday she did not shy away from confronting racism in the books because “unfortunately, there is no age minimum on when children of color confront racism.”
“I was bullied in kindergarten for being Chinese, so it was not a hard wrestle for me. When American Girl approached me, it was a few months afterand still very fresh and raw in our minds,” Shan told CBSN, referring to a string of shootings in March 2020, where eight people, including six Asian women, were killed at Atlanta-area spas.
The Atlanta shooting is justreported in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic.
“You know, I was thinking about the recipients of those [hateful] comments, and I think at that point I was thinking more of the children who needed to find strength in our books and say, ‘Your experiences matter and we see you, and we are here to support you.'” she said.
In the book, Corinne deals with anti-Asian slurs when a boy says that she has the “Kung flu,” and she also overhears a man make a racist joke. Corinne gains the words and courage to stand up to her own racist bully.
“What I hope is in having these discussions in my books is that kids develop a level of comfort and knowledge and how to think about and respond when they see it,” Shan said.
Corinne, who lives in Aspen, Colorado in the books, also gives representation to kids in blended families. In an interview with American Girl to announce Corinne and the books, Shan said she hopes the story “makes readers feel seen, whether it’s because they are Asian American, or they love skiing, or because they’re part of a blended family.”
In addition to dolls from different historical time periods, American Girl releases limited edition “Girl of the Year” dolls that come with books, “companion characters” and often, movies. The dolls have been diverse – Marisol Luna was Mexican, Gabriela McBride was African American and Sonali, a “companion character” who was the friend of a “Girl of the Year,” was South Asian.
To celebrate their first Chinese-American “Girl of the Year,” the company partnered with AAPI Youth Rising, a student-led organization with a mission to turn small actions into positive change. American Girl has donated $25,000 to the organization and is asking schools and teachers across the country to teach at least one day of Asian American and Pacific Islander history and culture during the school year.