The New American Girl Catalog: Grilling the Girl

Addy Walker
Addy Walker

The latest American Girl catalog arrived on our doorstep the other day; but before handing it over to my tri-racial daughter (black, Hispanic, and white), I snuck a peek at the pages of its extensive collection of dolls and accessories that sells the American dream of girl power and racial harmony.

On their cover was yet another white girl posing as exotic; this one featured “Aloha Kanani” the Girl of the year for 2011. Apparently the company thinks that if they dye their young blond models to a dishwater blond and then give them a tan, they can pass for Samoan or Hawaiian. Just as confusing as both the model and doll passing for brown was the rapid accolade pasted on this 21st century Barbie. How in the heck did this girl win the coveted American “2011 Girl of the Year” award when only three days of 2011 had passed? I guess this company operates like Facebook and decides who or what wins.

Aloha Kanani
Aloha Kanani

Inside the pages of this American Girl fantasy, the company’s attention to reality hits it out of the park with Addy Walker, the collection’s only colored girl. Addy, true to her heritage, actually looks black in her pigmentation and is treated like one as well in the text. You see, Addy is so “courageous” and “determined to find freedom and keep her family together” that she, like many of her million American colored girl counterparts, is lost in the middle of the catalog.

Unlike Molly McIntire, Kit Kitteridge, or Rebecca Rubin, Addy has only one page devoted to her likeness. The lighter skin girls have pages and pages of accessories, pets, toys, and, for some reason or other, friends as well. Kit has Ruthie Smithens for a friend and Molly’s got Emily Bennett to kick it with. I guess runaway slaves didn’t have time to make friends or even be one.

But it was great that the publishers of the magazine stuck the colored girl next to the Mexican, Josefina Montoya, the other “one pager”, and sole Latina in the doll line. In her traditional white frock and black hotel vest, she looks like she’s ready to serve dinner or clean the house. Guess it made sense to stick all the darkies together so that they might bond between making beds at the “rancho” and looking for those lost, irresponsible parents who aren’t around to take care of Addy. But, hey, everyone knows you have to grow up quicker in the ghetto.

In its final attempt at equity—and to reach a broader market, American Girl has included a Bitty Baby selection that features “baby dolls in five skin, eye, and hair color combinations.” How nice; but please don’t let this magazine get out into the Asian part of town cause there ain’t a slant-eyed Bitty Baby among them. I guess having two minorities is enough…Oh wait, on page 15 there is an Asian, Ivy Ling. This makes sense since Ivy is an accessory friend to the only liberal white doll in the bunch, Julie Albright from San Francisco and the wild 70’s! I don’t think Julie would have it any other way. “Hey mom, I’ve got a friend for you to meet…She’s a minority!”

Oh shoot! In my fascination with this magazine I accidently burnt some of the pages while reading it over the stove. What will I tell my daughter now? … But wait, the smelting of the pages actually make Kit look Middle Eastern with a dark mustache; and Rebecca is now Rubiyat, an Iraqi girl whose terrorist parents have left her stranded in the desert. And all the white models are cuddling black and brown babies. Hey, maybe dad and daughter’s Christmas wish for 2011 will come true after all.

Alfee Enciso

Alfee Enciso, a 28-year veteran of the Los Angeles Unified School District, has worked in education as an administrator, English teacher, Literacy Coach, and Social Studies Specialist. He has presented throughout the state on literacy, culturally relevant teaching, and reading and writing strategies for teachers. He currently works at Banning High School as a teacher librarian.


  1. George A. Crackuh says

    Must absolutely everything be political to the depressingly race-obsessed left? Apparently so.

    Can a doll maker not even make the dolls that they hope they can sell the most of, without being attacked by this holier-than-thou nonsense? Apparently not.

    I truly feel sorry for the children of this man. Here we have another malcontent who has been drawing a nice, easy government paycheck his entire adult life. And now he feels slighted, truly upset, because a successful, prudently managed doll company’s catalog doesn’t fit his puerile ideology. He actually burns it, so his girls can’t look at it!

    I see that American Girl is owned by Mattel, a public company with a fiduciary duty to their stockholders, so I’d lay 1000-to-1 odds that if the managers there believed that green or brown or purple dolls would sell more this year than pink ones, they would be making them, and their catalog would reflect that, too. I’m also sure the disgusting idea that their dolls should be imbued with any political agenda at all is anathema to them.

    Of course, if Mr. Enciso doesn’t like the dolls sold by American Girl, for whatever reason he chooses, political, cultural, or aesthetic, he is completely free to grant his business to any other doll company in the world – he’s a librarian, so he has to know about the internet by now; but I guess that is just too cheerful, too mature, and too simple a solution for him.

    Or, if he absolutely feels mission-bound to bring darker dolls into the world, let him put his money where his mouth is, and start up his own multiculti doll business. More power to him.

    Maybe he could even get Mattel’s backing! I’m sure all he’d have to do would be to present a plan that would make it worth their while. That is, a plan that would convincingly show his darker dolls will actually be desired, and will sell.

    And then maybe he’d be so busy he wouldn’t have time for such pathetic kvetching over a non-issue in the year 2011 as the racial attributes of a doll.

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