Join 3,513 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


She can move out of her car and into your home for a mere $95!
January 31, 2010 2:45 PM   Subscribe

In the 1980s, American Girl dolls became an obsession for many young girls. The early options were limited, but the "family" of dolls has expanded to have Native American, New Mexican, African-American, and Jewish girls represented. Reaching across to a new un-tapped demographic: American Girl has released a homeless doll. Gwen Thompson, the homeless girl, retails for $95.
posted by grapefruitmoon (109 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Zeitgeist.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:50 PM on January 31, 2010


"I don't even see why you would make a homeless doll, anyway," one woman said to Kauffman, unless it was being used to raise money to help charities aiding the homeless.

QFT
posted by dabitch at 2:51 PM on January 31, 2010


Although I don't agree with Peyser overall, she's right about the mixed messages inherent in selling a homeless doll. The $95 price tag is a slap in the face to a homeless family unable to afford three meals a day.

Maybe... but it seems like a little girl isn't going "This money is to be donated. Oh, nevermind, I want the Gwen doll instead!" but rather "I want an American Girl Doll!! This one is pretty!"

The parents could always donate the money, true, and hopefully they are volunteering time and money. But this seems like a good opportunity to teach a child if you're getting her a doll anyway. When she asks for the toy set for Gwen for Christmas, the parent could say, "You know how we read about how hard it is for her not to have nice things? There are real people like that. Would you like to go pick out some mittens and coats for a real homeless little girl instead?"

I think American Girl does a pretty good job in writing the books. I read the Samantha books when I was the target audience, and I remember how though she had nice things her friend had to work in a factory where another girl's hair got caught in the spools and ripped off.

Maybe the best compromise would be to give a kid the Gwen books, but not buy the doll.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:51 PM on January 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Add to shopping cart?
posted by hal9k at 2:52 PM on January 31, 2010 [16 favorites]


Take a regular doll and give it to a 3 year old, they all end up looking pretty homeless soon enough.
posted by Artw at 2:53 PM on January 31, 2010 [11 favorites]


Does it come with matchsticks?
posted by drezdn at 2:54 PM on January 31, 2010 [9 favorites]


So far not having homeless dolls has done nothing to alleviate the American homelessness epidemic. I don't see how having a homeless doll could hurt. There is an important difference between treating a subject sensitively and refusing to address potentially sensitive issues. Sure, your heart bleeds for the plight of the homeless and it pains you to consider their plight - but objecting to a doll represented as being homeless seems like a misdirection of this natural emotional response.
posted by idiopath at 2:55 PM on January 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


What the hell is a "New Mexican" doll? Do they mean "hispanic"? Why don't they also have "Arizonan" or "Oklahoman" dolls? It's not like "New Mexican" is an ethnic group or anything really delineated other than by some straight lines drawn on a map. That's the weakest thing I've ever seen as a dodge for the truth -- she is of Mexican descent, and happens to be in the US. Gee. It's a shame that Texas, Arizona, Colorado, and California weren't also under Mexican governance and annexed at about the same time. Oh wait.
posted by hippybear at 2:58 PM on January 31, 2010


Isn't part of the "American Girl" schtick that it teaches girls about history. They're educational. I don't see how informing kids about the nature of homelessness is going to be harmful.
posted by delmoi at 2:59 PM on January 31, 2010


God, I want one.
posted by hermitosis at 3:00 PM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


My Patrick Bateman doll is going to have a ball with that one.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:00 PM on January 31, 2010 [14 favorites]


So, does it come in a cardboard box, or not?
apologies - irresistable
posted by davemee at 3:01 PM on January 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


So far not having homeless dolls has done nothing to alleviate the American homelessness epidemic.

Yes, I think this raises my skepticism of concerns.

I don't find this doll any more objectionable than any other form of unnecessary consumerism. That is, the connection between spending money frivolously rather than helping the homeless is more obvious with this doll - but spending $95 on {computers/ipod shuffles/5-course-meals/whatever luxury} isn't morally any better so it seems disingenuous to go "WTF."

In fact, the above examples are arguably worse - at least this doll is raising awareness of an issue.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:02 PM on January 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


From what I understand, some families have been living in New Mexico longer than the United States has existed, and DO consider themselves 'New Mexican' and not hispanic.
posted by leotrotsky at 3:02 PM on January 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


According to the NY Post, Mattel is engaging in all-out political indoctrination!
posted by octothorpe at 3:04 PM on January 31, 2010


What the hell is a "New Mexican" doll? Do they mean "hispanic"? Why don't they also have "Arizonan" or "Oklahoman" dolls?

Well, that dolls historical setting was 1824, when there probably was a pretty big difference between someone living in New Mexico and other places in the U.S.
posted by delmoi at 3:04 PM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is that doll even available for purchase?* I couldn't find it on the American Girl site.

*not that I want it, it just seems to be a lot of hullabaloo for something that may not even be available anymore.
posted by pinky at 3:06 PM on January 31, 2010


From what I understand, some families have been living in New Mexico longer than the United States has existed, and DO consider themselves 'New Mexican' and not hispanic.

Nah, I'm a native -- born, raised, lived there for 29 years. If they delineate at all, it's based on the community they are related to. "Hispanic", after all, means "of lineage coming from Spain", which even the most Native-mixed descendants were usually happy to claim. They may draw lines trying to delineate themselves from those immigrating from Mexico within the past century or so, but I don't EVER recall someone saying "oh, I'm not hispanic -- I'm New Mexican". And I wasn't sheltered away from the longer-term families in the area -- my elementary school was 65% hispanic and was the main school for the Tortugas community.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but that New Mexican doll just smacks of bad white attitude toward those with brown skin.
posted by hippybear at 3:07 PM on January 31, 2010


I don't think this should be viewed as a bad thing, simply because the doll's persona is homeless.

Not so fast, say some homeless advocates, such as one who observed to Kauffman that she finds "the whole concept to be extremely disturbing. It's not a doll I would ever buy for a child."

What, you think your kids are too good to play with those homeless kids in bad situations? What kind of homeless advocate are you? This raises homeless awareness in ways that don't villify a subgroup at all. It encourages the child to relate to the doll and gives them an understanding of what other children might be going through.

Regarding the $95 pricetag, the children whose parents can afford to buy the Gwen dolls are probably the children who would benefit from exposure to this doll the most.
posted by scrutiny at 3:10 PM on January 31, 2010 [17 favorites]


I don't recall these when they were supposedly popular, but the look on the doll pictured in the Wikipedia link comes off as strangely stern, like I'm not patriotic enough for her or something.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:12 PM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, that dolls historical setting was 1824, when there probably was a pretty big difference between someone living in New Mexico and other places in the U.S.

You mean, when New Mexico wasn't part of the US? And neither was Texas, California, Arizona, etc? That was all Mexico or the Republic of Texas in 1824.
posted by hippybear at 3:12 PM on January 31, 2010


Something tells me the main audience for these isn't gonna be lefty parents who want to teach their kids about economic inequality. It's gonna be kids themselves who are into the whole adorable vulnerability thing. You know, the ones who went nuts over The Velveteen Rabbit when they were younger, and keep wanting to nurse baby squirrels and birds with broken wings and shit back to health, and you just know they're going to be going nuts over Twilight or something in another few years.

That's pretty harmless, I think. I mean, maybe I'm biased because I was one of those kids — although thankfully it was Atreyu being all shirtless and miserable in The Neverending Story for me, rather than Bella in Twilight, and anyway I'm a dude so nobody bought me dolls. But identifying with the long-suffering underdog is cool in my book, and wanting a little long-suffering-underdog-shaped transitional object you can cheer up and smother with hugs is fine with me too, and there's no doubt this will be a better influence than.... well, Twilight, for starters.

It's just that the political angle seems like an excuse for a very clever move to tap a particular subset of kids' interests, and not the actual motivation.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:14 PM on January 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Eh, at least it's somewhat educational. If it's this or a Bratz or Barbie doll, I think it's hard to argue against it. Besides, it's an imaginative play toy, which are becoming more and more rare.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:17 PM on January 31, 2010


Is that doll even available for purchase?* I couldn't find it on the American Girl site.

*not that I want it, it just seems to be a lot of hullabaloo for something that may not even be available anymore.


This is what I came to say. All the links in the post that seem like they might go to the doll itself go to articles about the doll. Does the doll exist? Can anyone find a link to it?
posted by not that girl at 3:19 PM on January 31, 2010


Gwen Thompson looks pretty well-kept for a homeless girl.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 3:20 PM on January 31, 2010


And the New Mexican doll seems to represent a girl who lived in present-day New Mexico in 1824. At that time, New Mexico had just transferred from Spanish to Mexican rule and didn't become and American territory until 1846.

I don't think the New Mexican tag is bad white attitude. I'm not sure what I would call someone living there at the time if not 'New Mexican', though certainly such distinctions probably don't exist today.
New Mexico remained under Spanish rule until 1821 when Mexico won its independence from Spain ... In 1824, New Mexico briefly became a Mexican territory, but in 1846 U.S. Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny's troops followed Anglo merchants down the Santa Fe Trail to occupy New Mexico, which became an American territory.
posted by scrutiny at 3:21 PM on January 31, 2010


(Although maybe I'm underestimating the cleverness? This sort of thing seriously would have been like crack for me when I was younger — in addition to The Neverending Story, I was gaga over that genre of children's fiction where orphans run around having adventures and suffering poetically and then cheering each other up again, and my favorite Winnie The Pooh story was the one where Christopher Robin grows up and abandons all the animals, and I could go on about the bit in ...Yearling, I think it was?... where the kid almost starves to death, and....

But maybe I'm imagining a whole market segment here and it turns out it's just that I was a masochistic little weirdo. That wouldn't be too surprising, come to think of it.)

posted by nebulawindphone at 3:22 PM on January 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Er, overestimating the cleverness. Fuck it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:23 PM on January 31, 2010


Without a "Buy it now" link, I find this story lacking.
posted by nutate at 3:23 PM on January 31, 2010


I wonder what they'll do with any dolls that go unsold.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 3:23 PM on January 31, 2010


Here's the doll if anyone wants to buy it.
posted by scrutiny at 3:27 PM on January 31, 2010


Where do you keep it?
posted by tigrefacile at 3:28 PM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: inappropriate "political indoctrination" intended to encourage children to sympathize with the homeless.
posted by idiopath at 3:29 PM on January 31, 2010


Also, I have now spent far too much time hanging around searching for dolls on the internet.
posted by scrutiny at 3:29 PM on January 31, 2010


If Rebecca Rubin is Russian-Jewish, I'm Peter O'Toole.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:35 PM on January 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is actually technically AG's second homeless doll. The first was Nellie O'Malley, a child factory worker and "friend" to one of their historical dolls, Samantha Parkington. Weirdly, both are technically accessories in the line of other dolls--in Gwen's case, she's park of Chrissa's line, just as Nellie is part of Samantha's line. This means that the relevant book lines center around the wealthier friends, with just one book really dedicated to the homeless/poor character. I find this weird. In a way, it asks girls to empathize with the impoverished without identifying with the impoverished.

nebulawindphone, you would have loved the AG historical books. As a kid, my favorite was Molly, who lived during WWII and had a bomb shelter in her basement--I mean, how awesome is that?! I know it was supposed to teach kids how scary bombs are, but kids are morbid, and always have been--I think of all the sickly characters in stuff like Gene Stratton Porter's books as a good example of that. The romanticism of illness and strife and danger and all that.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:36 PM on January 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sure, why not? I can't really speak about what these dolls mean culturally, because I'm unfamiliar with them. But if it gets the idea of homelessness into a place where young kids might start wanting to know more, I can't see how that's harmful. Maybe it's not the best way to educate kids, and maybe it's not even their intent, but I don't find it distasteful anymore than a lot of things. I mean, my sister had a black doll growing up, and apart from television, that was the only black person I saw til I was eight. Kids can be quite cut off from lots of things, and so maybe a few interesting conversations will come from it, or maybe not.

Either way, it's hardly angstworthy.
posted by Sova at 3:37 PM on January 31, 2010


Joe Beese, I'm a Russian Jew and look pretty much exactly like that in terms of coloring. My Russian Jewish grandfather (first generation American, born in the US in 1917) had green eyes, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:38 PM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think what people are really objecting to is the schism of buying a very expensive doll while being reminded of the reality of homelessness. The schism is there no matter what the doll looks like or is meant to represent, but in this case they are forced to face it.
posted by orange swan at 3:39 PM on January 31, 2010


I'm not sure that small children who play with dolls (which is an important development phase where they learn about what nurturing could mean) really could care less about the goofy backstories on these overpriced pieces of cultural detritus.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:39 PM on January 31, 2010



This American Life did an interesting/depressing segment on race and dolls. Specifically what happens when a high class doll store runs out of white dolls.
posted by Erberus at 3:41 PM on January 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


OK, this is going to reveal far too much about my daughter's obsession with the whole American Girl thing, but here's the actual back story on the character of Gwen Thompson, the "homeless" doll.

AG does a Girl of the Year - a doll they make and sell for only one year, and is then retired. In 2009, that doll was Chrissa Maxwell. Each AG doll has a story; Chrissa's story was that she was the new kid in school, dealing with bullying. She made two friends in her class, Sonali and Gwen. These characters were made into dolls, as AG sometimes does with companions to main characters - and those dolls were also retired at the end of 2009.

In the course of the story, Chrissa finds out that Gwen is an accomplished violinist, who won't play at school for some reason. It comes out that Gwen and her mother lost their home and were helped with housing by an organization that Chrissa's grandmother supports, until they got back on their feet. So Gwen was "homeless", but didn't sleep on the street or in a cardboard box - supposedly no one at school knew that Gwen was or had been homeless. When the group of girl bullies finds out, they tease and humiliate Gwen. Chrissa, of course, stands up for her, everyone learns their lesson - standard 8-year-old fare. The books and movie are still available for sale on the AG website.

I suppose you could buy any of the retired dolls on eBay or elsewhere, but they aren't in production any longer. I recall an on-line fuss about this when the dolls were introduced at the beginning of 2009. I have no idea how many of the Gwen dolls were actually sold, but they weren't featured or expressly advertised as "here's a homeless AG doll" - more that it was just part of one supporting character's back story.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 3:41 PM on January 31, 2010 [11 favorites]


I'm not sure that small children who play with dolls (which is an important development phase where they learn about what nurturing could mean) really could care less about the goofy backstories on these overpriced pieces of cultural detritus.

Maybe this is a gendered thing, but I had a faux Molly doll (we were too poor for a real one--my mother bought a generic 18-inch doll from a toy store, got her a pair of glasses, and hand sewed clothes to look like stuff from the book), and the historical books were integral to my play with her. These aren't baby dolls meant to teach about nurturing--and I remember the old Pleasant Company mission statement saying something along these lines--and they're also not adult dolls like Barbie meant to teach about fashion; they're meant, instead, to represent companions/friends and simultaneously teach about history. Yes, they're overpriced. And I have no idea what it's like to play as a kid with one of the modern dolls like Gwen--I'd imagine I would find it far less appealing than I did playing with the historical dolls. But the backstories never seemed any goofier than the backstories of the action figures I played with (HeMan, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). It seemed, instead, like serious and important stuff. My friends and I would invent our own adventures, but they'd all start with the source material.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:47 PM on January 31, 2010 [10 favorites]


I think what people are really objecting to is the schism of buying a very expensive doll while being reminded of the reality of homelessness. The schism is there no matter what the doll looks like or is meant to represent, but in this case they are forced to face it.

I suppose. But then their objections are just navelgazing. What is this called, some kind of cognitive dissonance? Like you're trying to rationalize $X on buying a representation of poverty. Though as you mention, if not this doll, then another, but without any potential social benefit.
posted by Sova at 3:52 PM on January 31, 2010


I'm not sure that small children who play with dolls (which is an important development phase where they learn about what nurturing could mean) really could care less about the goofy backstories on these overpriced pieces of cultural detritus.

Maybe it was just me (or maybe we're thinking of different age groups), but I liked all of the American Girl books more than I liked the actual Samantha doll I had.
posted by lullaby at 4:01 PM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure that small children who play with dolls (which is an important development phase where they learn about what nurturing could mean) really could care less about the goofy backstories on these overpriced pieces of cultural detritus.

Clearly you have not been a middle-class grade school girl in the past three decades. I was in fourth grade when these dolls first came onto the scene and I, along with all of my friends, was obsessed with these dolls. Not just the dolls, but all the history that goes along with them. The marketing was genius because every doll came with a whole load of historically-related stuff you could buy - books detailing their backstory, multiple outfits (each had a party dress, a school dress, a play dress, a holiday dress, etc etc), furniture, tea sets, and so on.

Maybe this is just because I was nine when the dolls started getting popular, but I imagine all the backstory stuff also serves the purpose of making them more appealing to slightly older girls. 8 or 9 year old girls are starting to move beyond the playing-with-dolls age, but all the context stuff makes it ok to play with them, where playing with Barbies or whatever would seem babyish.

On preview, what PhoBWanKenobi said. FWIW, I agree with PBWK that the Rebecca doll's coloring seems appropriate to Russian-Jewish background, but it seems like her clothes are too nice. A Russian Jewish family in NYC in 1914 would have been pretty recently off the boat and living in some pretty extreme poverty. It's also likely she would have been working. Maybe there'll be a Rebecca and the Shirtwaist Factory Fire book?
posted by lunasol at 4:02 PM on January 31, 2010 [8 favorites]


Maybe it was just me (or maybe we're thinking of different age groups)

I was thinking ages 2-5.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:02 PM on January 31, 2010


i have nieces. my goddaughter wanted an american girl doll, so i bit the bullet & ordered not just one, but two (so her sister would have something to play with, too). did the phone order, went through the whole spiel (including buying a special little hair brush because god knows, we wouldn't want their hair to get mussed up). at the end, after i'd given my address, her address, credit card number, and whatever else, the woman on the phone was bidding me adieu when i stopped her & said, 'i just have one question.' 'yes ma'am' she said. 'the american girl doll,' i said, 'it isn't made in america, is it?' silence. 'it's made in china, isn't it?' she recovered quickly & proceeded to tell me how it *used* to be made in america & how they'd love to be able to manufacture them here now, but they found it too cost prohibitive. and she told me this after i'd dropped almost $300 on two dolls & a tiny hairbrush.

american girl, my ass.
posted by msconduct at 4:04 PM on January 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Perhaps I'm wrong, but that New Mexican doll just smacks of bad white attitude toward those with brown skin.

You're wrong. I'm New Mexican and it's definitely an ethnic identity than is not described by any other term. My family has lived in New Mexico for exactly four hundred and twelve years. Our culture is distinct and separate from every other Hispanic culture. I would not deny being Hispanic, but I don't have very much in common culturally, with Mexicans or Puerto Ricans or even native Hispanic Texans. This cultural attitude is much stronger among specifically northern New Mexicans, where my family is from because there was a lot less contact with Mexico, which would explain why you might have not encountered it very much in Tortugas.
posted by signalnine at 4:07 PM on January 31, 2010 [18 favorites]


I will never forgot watching my daughter get frustrated because the tack for the American Girl horse (and whatever doll it went with) didn't fit properly. To her 8 year old horse crazy mind, the fact that it was just a doll and toy horse was no excuse for the tack not sitting on the toy horse like it would if properly fitted on a real horse.

She traded the dolls and toy horse for a real horse. I should have encouraged the dolls more - $95 a doll is a bargain compared to horse ownership!
posted by COD at 4:14 PM on January 31, 2010


If Rebecca Rubin is Russian-Jewish, I'm Peter O'Toole.

That doll's appearance was apparently the result of an incredibly painstaking process:

Hair color was a big issue, debated for years. At first it was a dark auburn, but it was thought that might be too untypical. Ms. Boswell said. Then dark brown, the most common hair color for Russian-Jewish immigrants, was discussed. But perhaps that would be too typical, too predictable, failing to show girls there is not one color that represents all Jewish immigrants.

“In the end, after many discussions weighing out the advantages of both approaches,” Ms. Boswell said, “we created what we felt was an optimum combination and gave her a new mid-tone brown hair color with russet highlights.”

posted by decagon at 4:20 PM on January 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Maybe it was just me (or maybe we're thinking of different age groups)

I was thinking ages 2-5.


Yeah, these dolls are aimed at older girls, probably closer to 6-11 or so. American Girl has a baby doll line aimed at younger kids, but these dolls are all supposed to be ten years old, and are meant to represent peers rather than babies to be cared for.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:24 PM on January 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I kinda hoped a Gwen doll would have black hair and be Welsh and hunt aliens.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 4:27 PM on January 31, 2010 [9 favorites]


Oh. American Girl. Never mind.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 4:28 PM on January 31, 2010


Not sure why this is a bigger deal than Addy, the slave doll (you know what I had to google through to make sure she's the only major slavery-themed one out there (apart from reproductions like corncob or rag dolls)?)

Gwen, like Nellie (Samantha) and Emily (Molly) is a spin-off character whose original purpose is to illustrate the emotional development of the primary character. Nellie is poor, Emily is a temporary orphan escaping London bombing, and Gwen is homeless.

People seem to be objecting mainly because homelessness is a modern phenomenon; and the irony of an expensive doll representing this group is more obvious -- but the storytelling dynamic between well off/poor characters is no different.
posted by jfwlucy at 4:36 PM on January 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just to be clear, Gwen is a spin-off character. Each of the main dolls has a series of books, and usually a best friend. Gwen appears to be Chrissa's best friend. She is being made into a doll, but not with the backstory / dozens of outfits that the main American Girl dolls have.
posted by pintapicasso at 4:41 PM on January 31, 2010


or, what jfwlucy said.
posted by pintapicasso at 4:42 PM on January 31, 2010


From what I understand, some families have been living in New Mexico longer than the United States has existed, and DO consider themselves 'New Mexican' and not hispanic.

I consider myself Hispanic all right, but I also consider myself ethnically New Mexican. I'm not of Mexican descent at all. Hundreds of years ago, when some folks' Spanish ancestors were settling in Mexico, mine where setting up housekeeping in and around Taos.

As a little girl, I would have been all over the New Mexican American Girls doll, and so would my parents.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 4:42 PM on January 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Another concern of some advocates for the homeless is that the dolls could send the wrong message to kids. Tanya Tull, president of Beyond Shelter, says she's "afraid that they're going to pick up the idea that it's OK, that it's an accepted segment of society that some children are homeless and some children are not."

No, that's not it at all, Tanya Tull. In fact what is going to happen is that, upon receipt of the ninety-five dollar doll, the child will tiptoe into the upstairs sitting-room and plead:

"Mother dearest, as for my collection of diverse real-life peers, I have a Negro friend, an Asiatic friend, a South American friend, but in order for my collection to be complete I shall also need for you to secure me a Homeless friend, and we may allow it into the gardens as a sort of free-roaming folly. Oh, do, mother!"

"We shall see, dear Sandra, but have you done your Greek lessons yet?"

"Oh, mother, but Aristotle's rhetoric is so very trite! So very trite indeed, mother!"

"Ah, my dear angel, I could never say no to your precious little face, your eyes so like your father's, whose moustaches were shot off in the war! I shall send Jeeves in the Rolls to fetch one for you immediately!"

"Oh, thank you, mother! I shall take ever such good care of it!"

One problem solved! Am I parsing this incorrectly?
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:45 PM on January 31, 2010 [10 favorites]


I'm not sure that small children who play with dolls (which is an important development phase where they learn about what nurturing could mean) really could care less about the goofy backstories on these overpriced pieces of cultural detritus.

I agree with others on this point, that they're actually very popular with elementary-school aged girls because of the history.

I wasn't really into dolls (though I loved all the little accessories), but I read all of the books at that age. I liked Molly (WWII) and Samantha (Edwardian era) - I learned about rationing during the war, child labor, along with fun things like how girls in the late 1800's would have made ice cream. All of the books I read explored historical impressions about women - the girls were expected to sew, or cook, or whatever, but would instead go and have adventures.

I remember one of my friends really liked the pioneer girl and the one from the American revolution, which I thought was dumb because I randomly found those time periods boring. Man, I would have loved the 20s and 30s era ones.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:45 PM on January 31, 2010


Well, the voices of Albuquerque and Taos have spoken, and I will stand aside in my questioning of the New Mexican doll. Growing up in Las Cruces, the idea of a distinct Nuevo Mejico identity was not part of the overall vibe. Sure, there were plenty who would rather be identified by their native tribal affiliation than as hispanic, but there was no real concept of a separate cultural identity. I guess this is sort of like when people learn I'm from NM and then assume I'm from ABQ or Santa FE or Taos or whatever. Las Cruces : New Mexico :: Spokane : Washington. Funny how those things work out.
posted by hippybear at 4:45 PM on January 31, 2010


I'm not sure that small children who play with dolls (which is an important development phase where they learn about what nurturing could mean) really could care less about the goofy backstories on these overpriced pieces of cultural detritus.

Chiming in with the dissent on this one. I had two American Girl dolls (Felicity and Molly), but I read every single one of those darn books (including the historical notes at the end) - with 5 of the dolls in production at the time, and 6 books per doll, that's 30 books. I freaking loved those things, and I remember them having a lot of educational value, not just in learning facts about a particular era, but also in thinking about an era's social issues (child labor and women's suffrage in the Samantha books, for example). I think it's great that these books are talking about modern homelessness, and I don't think a doll is going to hurt. Sure, $95 is expensive, and yes, the dolls were nicer before Mattell made them, and no, your daughter doesn't need every outfit and accessory that goes with each doll, but give Pleasant Company a little bit of credit here for making history (and modern-day issues) come alive for girls. There are a lot of spectacularly stupid toys out there - this isn't one of them.

And to nebulawindphone...
I was gaga over that genre of children's fiction where orphans run around having adventures and suffering poetically and then cheering each other up again...But maybe I'm imagining a whole market segment here and it turns out it's just that I was a masochistic little weirdo.
You are definitely NOT alone here - this stuff was my crack as a kid. While I read tons of it, I would posit that for girls at least the quintessential book of this genre is A Little Princess - I read that thing so many times I've lost count, and just thinking about poor, noble, long-suffering Sara Crewe in that attic makes me want to go read it again right this second.

Seriously though, what is up with the fact that Becky still has to be a maid at the end? That always seemed a little unfair.
posted by naoko at 4:49 PM on January 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


Perhaps I'm wrong, but that New Mexican doll just smacks of bad white attitude toward those with brown skin.

I was very wary about how to label that doll in the post, but went with "New Mexican" as the doll is of a character set in 1824, and "New Mexican" is how she's identified. For a contemporary character, it would seem odd, but this was before New Mexico became a state.

I was thinking ages 2-5.

The American Girl dolls are for an older audience, much more 6-10. The books are a key part of the toy, and as such they're targeted towards children who read independently. They're not "baby" dolls.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:50 PM on January 31, 2010


I am pretty OK with the American Girl dolls in general since they do a pretty good job of finding the part on the Venn diagram which is the intersection of Girls Will Play With It and Educational or Social Value. My six year old likes the doll as a doll and likes the stories about the dolls as well and knows the outlines of the back story of each doll.

If you want to make argument that a country with actual homeless children in it should not have X in it as well, I would actually put dolls, even $95 dolls, far, far down on the list of possible values for X, below 10,000 sq ft houses and Maybach's for example. Though I dont actually think the argument is correct, in any case.
posted by shothotbot at 4:52 PM on January 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was a bit too old for the dolls when they first came out (but boy did I flip through that catalog).
My teenage sitter's little sister had the books though and I read them there. Wow - they were so well written. I wonder if my adult love of historical fiction was helped by this?
Imagine Laura Ingalls Wilder but a little more educational and less realistic.
posted by k8t at 4:54 PM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Erberus wrote: "
This American Life did an interesting/depressing segment on race and dolls. Specifically what happens when a high class doll store runs out of white dolls.
"

During the Cabbage Patch Kids craze, that netted me a "little black doll", as my grandmother called it.
posted by wierdo at 5:19 PM on January 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, the voices of Albuquerque and Taos have spoken, and I will stand aside in my questioning of the New Mexican doll. Growing up in Las Cruces, the idea of a distinct Nuevo Mejico identity was not part of the overall vibe. Sure, there were plenty who would rather be identified by their native tribal affiliation than as hispanic, but there was no real concept of a separate cultural identity.

This may be in part to the fact that northern New Mexico (including Santa Fe) was settled by Sephardic crypto-Jews (some only barely undercover). Many of them married amongst themselves for generations for protection, so they really were a separate culture from the majority. Even the language is a bit different; some northern New Mexicans still have Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) words in their vocabulary that standard Mexican Spanish does not. The genes live on too; women with ancestry from the area, to this day, are unfortunately at risk for the BRCA1 breast cancer mutation which is supposedly one of those "Ashkenazic" disease markers, but which actually pre-dates the Ashkenazic/Sephardic ethnic/linguistic separation amongst European Jews.

tl,dr: Rebecca Rubin may not actually be the first Jewish American Girl.
posted by Asparagirl at 5:57 PM on January 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Growing up in Las Cruces, the idea of a distinct Nuevo Mejico identity was not part of the overall vibe.

To be fair, Hippybear, I don't think folks who identify the way Signalnine and I do are particularly common. In my case, the solidity of my Northern New Mexican/ Southern Coloradan* cultural identity comes from having piles of ancestors who were profoundly dedicated to preserving family history, and to maintaining an (often strained, always weird) penumbra of family grandeur. It also comes from going to school with a lot of Mexicano kids and having no idea what the %$#@ they were talking about most of the time, despite appearing to share a demographic.

And then there's the issue of presentation. If you met me casually, you might come away with the idea that I was Latina (though not everyone does), but you most definitely wouldn't come away with any notion about the whole Colonial Spanish/ New Mexican identity thing. It's pretty complicated, and I don't tend to trot it out unless there's a specific reason to do so. So for all you know, you've met 10 zillion of us, but because you haven't given every lawyer, nurse practitioner, and gas station attendant who's crossed your path a thorough quizzing about their ethnic particulars,** you've never had reason to notice.

In sum, no harm/no foul, at least as far as I'm concerned.

* The balance of my family history has taken place in the area that begins 5 miles South of the Colorado/ New Mexico border and ends about 30 miles North of it. But I tend to describe myself as New Mexican because culturally, that area's a lot more like the Taos/ Tres Piedras/ T.A. region than it is like anything in Colorado, and, well, see how tortuous this all is?

** I assume. Because I assume that you're a generally well-brought-up and pleasant person.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 6:12 PM on January 31, 2010


My previous mention of Tanya Tull. Don't bag on Tanya. She's been around since day one and runs one of the few organizations that does homeless services for families right.
posted by The Straightener at 6:23 PM on January 31, 2010


As a White person from Santa Fe, I can definitely attest that there is a distinct "New Mexican" culture, complete with its own food, accent, etc, that is distinct from and occasionally in conflict with the better known Mexican culture.
posted by Electrius at 6:43 PM on January 31, 2010


About the homeless doll, my 10-year old says "I think it's kind of a smart idea because a lot of kids really are poor and homeless, and it makes them feel better that it isn't always glamorous and pretty and everything." She has a kid in her class who was in 10 different homeless shelters at various times.
posted by msalt at 8:01 PM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm under the impression that the area was called "New Mexico" before it ever became a territory of the United States. I've read that, long before white people settled in large numbers in Texas, the the citizens of Texas had an identity fairly independent of the central Mexican government. It wouldn't strike me as odd that the other far-flung northern holdings of Mexico- New Mexico and California- would feel the same way.
posted by spaltavian at 8:21 PM on January 31, 2010


The quintessential orphan girl story is A Little Princess? Nah, it's clearly Anne of Green Gables.

And yes, I did have an Anne doll. (Made by my aunt, with stapled together shoes that scratched my hands when I took them on and off -- but still more accurate to the character than any of the commercially available Anne dolls.)
posted by jb at 8:55 PM on January 31, 2010


Been thinking about this a little bit more, and actually I think there's an interesting link between the Gwen kerfuffle and what nebulawindphone was saying about how children (or some of them, anyway) look at downtrodden characters in literature and film. I think there is a tendency to glamorize the poverty of other eras, to see a sort of romance and charm to it. Personally, childhood fantasy life was very informed by some sort of mishmash of A Little Princess/anything by Charles Dickens/Les Miserables/Newsies/Avi's Beyond the Western Sea series/An American Tail/whatever...but I think we don't tend to see modern people with similar struggles in the same way. The poor, immigrants, etc. in our everyday lives tend to be treated as icky, without that same sort of epic sweep attributed to their struggles. As I see it, the Gwen doll strives to bring the two a little closer together by saying, "Look, this stuff isn't just characters in books, it's real people. It's not just about what happened a hundred years ago, it's about what's happening now. Notice the suffering and injustice right around you and feel the same way you do when you're thinking about Cosette or Oliver Twist or whatever."

But I may be way overthinking this.
posted by naoko at 9:00 PM on January 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


"New Mexican" American Girl Doll = PepsiCoup
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:02 PM on January 31, 2010


Oh shit, of course, I LOVE Anne of Green Gables - I just wasn't thinking of it in the context of over-the-top, romanticized, Dickensian-type stories of suffering that overimaginative kids like me get hepped up about. Outside of the whole orphan thing, Anne has it ok.
posted by naoko at 9:04 PM on January 31, 2010


naoko: good point. For that, I think Dickens or Burnett (A Little Princess) wins -- or possible some fantasy novels I've read about orphan kids turned thieves in medieval-esque cities but who actually turn out to be the rightful Queen or something.

We used to play orphans with our Barbie "Little Sister" dolls -- the ones that look about 10 years old. They would take care of the toddler dolls (who were also orphans, of course) and try to find a family for them all -- only they carried the other orphans around in a magic purse which was purse-sized (and purse-massed) on the outside, but room-sized on the inside. Probably a combination of said orphan stories, and a bit of Doctor Who.

I've read somewhere that orphan stories appeal not because kids are over-romaticising it, but because it's the kid version of a disaster movie: what is the worst thing in the world that can happen? Okay, now how do the people deal with it? I don't think the readers think it's fun without parents -- rather, that it is horrible. And that's why most of the stories end with rightness restored in the form of a new family.
posted by jb at 9:18 PM on January 31, 2010


Right. Well, there's orphan stories where the fantasy is "Gee, if my parents were out of the way I could have adventures," and then there's orphan stories where the fantasy is "Gee, if my parents died then life would be hard and it would suck and that's so glamorous."

IMHO the first kind is pretty much par for the course, because when you think about it, most children's book plots are just devices for getting those damn responsible adults out of the way, if only temporarily. ("Gee, so if there were some sort of portal to another universe in my closet, but my parents couldn't go through it because they were back in London, and the adults here couldn't go through it because they didn't believe in it, and — wait, hang on, how can I keep my big sister out too? — okay, so....")
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:21 PM on January 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't entirely understand what they are trying to do with this doll, but I guess they are trying to normalize or destigmatize being homeless, which is a good thing. Especially when more and more kids are part of families losing their homes. I could see teachers buying the doll for their classroom.
posted by whoaali at 9:30 PM on January 31, 2010



I'm not sure that small children who play with dolls (which is an important development phase where they learn about what nurturing could mean) really could care less about the goofy backstories on these overpriced pieces of cultural detritus


American Girl dolls came a little after my time (though my little sister had several), but the backstories (goofy as they may be) were at least better than the implied "look at me I have a Dreamhouse" Barbie non-story, in which eventually you'd get tired of dressing your Barbies in sparkly tube tops and you'd give them punk rock haircuts and and make them have sex in the back of the Barbie RV and then fight with your best friend over whether you want to play "Barbie Goes to College" or "Barbie in the French Revolution" next.


In my experience, nurturing had nothing to do with it.
posted by thivaia at 9:52 PM on January 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have been a girl child and I am now raising my own girl child and I think gender-based toy marketing is repellent, $95 dolls are repellent, children's toys made by child labor in overseas sweatshops are repellent, and bazillionare Mattel execs making money off marketing homelessness are extra, exra repellent and I have to say hearing about this just totally bummed me out for the evening and I have to go look at those pictures of baby platypuses I saw on Metachat to make myself feel better now.
posted by serazin at 10:46 PM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hmm, serazin, you raise some compelling points. Sigh.
posted by naoko at 11:28 PM on January 31, 2010


It bothers me that they still don't have an Asian historical doll.
posted by giraffe at 3:55 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


It bothers me that they still don't have an Asian historical doll.

Agreed.
posted by shothotbot at 4:39 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree that they should have an Asian main character, but one of the "friend" dolls is Asian - Julie's friend Ivy.
posted by naoko at 5:38 AM on February 1, 2010


This just goes to show that whipping up a righteous socio-political fury on Metafilter is child's play!

I'll get me coat.
posted by PunkSoTawny at 5:51 AM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't entirely understand what they are trying to do with this doll, but I guess they are trying to normalize or destigmatize being homeless, which is a good thing.

Destigmatize, perhaps, but normalizing homelessness is not a good thing, which is the point of Tanya's comments. The shelter system we've erected as a result of bad policy making does a perfectly good job of normalizing homelessness by creating a permanent underclass called "the homeless" who it is presumed will always be homeless despite the fact that new and better policies demonstrate that there is no need for this permanent underclass. So I completely see why something like this would really bother Tanya, because for twenty years she's been saying, look, these shelters are not the good things a lot of misinformed liberals think they are. They are inhumane places with squalid conditions that prove to be ineffectual bases from which to provide the services homeless families need to no longer be homeless. The last thing you want to do is tell kids that it's normal for people to be homeless, the message should be that homelessness is something that can and should end during their lifetimes. But I guess the target market for this doll is exactly the type of upper middle class liberal family for whom poor people are distant conceptual entities, that thinks homeless shelters are totally awesome places to go volunteer on Christmas morning to make themselves feel better about being upper middle class liberals.
posted by The Straightener at 5:52 AM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I dunno, I think only upper middle class liberals would be naive enough to think that homeless can and should end during their lifetime. I mean, a lot of very bright caring people have worked very hard and not found the magical policy that unlocks this problem.

But I agree that shelters are rough places and not something anyone wants to make anyone's normal. I can't imagine how you think this doll is doing that. Seems pretty simple; these dolls were created as a tool for teaching history and different peoples' stories. The story of a kid whose family loses their home seems like a pretty important and compelling (and underexposed) one.
posted by msalt at 7:24 AM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


First thing I thought of was the Vivienne Westwood Menswear fashion show which was "inspired" by the homeless. Somehow I don't think shopping carts as fashion accessories will ever catch on.

The quintessential orphan girl story is A Little Princess? Nah, it's clearly Anne of Green Gables.

Pshaw! Jane Eyre is the friendless orphan who suffers in total misery. The Little Princess lived in the lap of luxury by comparison, as did Anne. Jane's best friend even dies because of the freezing cold/bad food! And come to think of it, Jane herself becomes homeless when she runs away from Mr. Rochester.

As to Gwen, the homeless doll, even though she has the same name I would never buy this doll for my daughter to play with. There is something distasteful about a child living in comparatively wealthy circumstances playing with a token of homelessness. Much better to have her help make sack lunches or knit blankets for a shelter.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:30 AM on February 1, 2010


these dolls were created as a tool for teaching history and different peoples' stories.

If but that were so. I'm pretty sure these dolls were created as a tool for making buckets of money. That's why the marketing of a homeless doll is particularly objectionable and ironic.
posted by serazin at 7:40 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


msalt: "naive enough to think that homeless can and should end during their lifetime"

Overall you make a good point, but even if it were impossible to eliminate homelessness, the pervasiveness of homelessness in the US is pretty unique, there are a number of examples of how to deal with homelessness better than we do. Mostly it seems to come down to cultural differences (more connection and loyalty to extended family) and policy (the existence of a social safety net). Our homelessness problem is the toxic downside to our national obsession with "self sufficiency".
posted by idiopath at 7:43 AM on February 1, 2010


The Addy books were a wonderful, age-appropriate way for me to learn about slavery. It didn't "normalize" it for me. I didn't think about the fact that Addy was a slave but that the company was selling her as a doll for $95. I didn't care. I really enjoyed her story and that's all that mattered. Kids tend to take things at face value and I think adults tend to forget that.

These dolls aren't meant to be played with like Barbies or babydolls. They don't glamorize anything. They are a very straightforward "this is a girl who lives in this particular time/situation. Read about her. Use your imagination and go on adventures with her." The girls I know who had these dolls knew they were expensive and treated them like friends, not like babies or glamourous, fabulous Barbies.

Some of those links have people complaining because the doll doesn't LOOK homeless. I know, where are her tattered rags?! Ridiculous.

Hopefully these books will expose young girls to homelessness in a way that doesn't just portray homeless people as dirty drug-addicted crazies, which is the preferred method in most media. I think that's a good thing.
posted by girlmightlive at 8:05 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think only upper middle class liberals would be naive enough to think that homeless can and should end during their lifetime. I mean, a lot of very bright caring people have worked very hard and not found the magical policy that unlocks this problem.

You need to read up on housing first, both how it works for chronically homeless individuals and for homeless families.
posted by The Straightener at 8:10 AM on February 1, 2010


Hopefully these books will expose young girls to homelessness in a way that doesn't just portray homeless people as dirty drug-addicted crazies, which is the preferred method in most media.

Chronic homelessness on the individual side is almost exclusively a mental health and/or addiction issue and any effort to portray it as anything other than that is hurtful to the growing movement that seeks to address these issues with evidence based mental health practices in a harm reduction framework that can and will end chronic homelessness if they are implemented on a large enough scale.

The family side is much more an economic issue, low wage earning single mothers who cannot weather an economic crisis of any kind, be it an illness that prevents them from working or a short period of unemployment. When you make minimum wage and your family lives continually on the edge of homelessness it doesn't take much of an interruption in your income stream to put you on the street. Addiction and mental health is also an issue on the family side but not quite as pervasively as on the individual side.

And, to be perfectly honest, the homeless kids I worked with were predominantly black and Latino, wore worn hand me down clothes and when we first encountered them sometimes living in abandoned houses huddling around kerosene space heaters were downright dirty. This doll doesn't reflect anything that I saw in the year I spent doing intensive community based social work with homeless families. But, you know, you don't want to freak your kids out or anything with a doll reflecting that harsh reality, I understand.
posted by The Straightener at 8:25 AM on February 1, 2010


Pshaw! Jane Eyre is the friendless orphan who suffers in total misery. The Little Princess lived in the lap of luxury by comparison, as did Anne. Jane's best friend even dies because of the freezing cold/bad food!

And that's why I read the first part of Jane Eyre over and over and over. Lost interest after she left Mr. Rochester, but hoo boy did I like to read about Jane and Helen. Sign me up for stories of kids who can't catch a break!
posted by cereselle at 8:48 AM on February 1, 2010


Sign me up for stories of kids who can't catch a break!

This makes we want to spend the week re-reading Dickens.
posted by thivaia at 9:28 AM on February 1, 2010


You need to read up on housing first, both how it works for chronically homeless individuals and for homeless families.

You need to stop lecturing people if you want to convince them of your position.

I think saying something like this might be more successful: "Hey, I don't know if you've heard about the Housing First program, but it's pretty impressive. Check it out."
posted by msalt at 9:37 AM on February 1, 2010


I can't shake the feeling that a lot of the outrage here is, um, gender based. IE "playing with dolls is STUPID girly girl stuff. And OMG $95 is a ton of money!"

From people who happily paid 4 times that for an X-box and a couple of games.
posted by msalt at 9:42 AM on February 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


I loved the American Doll stories when I was a girl, and I really wanted a doll for while. My sister got one for Christmas one year ---- and did I ever hate her for it!

That said, I also believe that the late 80s and the early 90s when I was enthralled with these dolls, which also happened to be the early years of the Pleasant Company, were the heyday of American Girl. The dolls were really well made, and there was even a "doll hospital," so if some type of injury occurred, you could have the doll repaired at, mostly, a really reasonable cost --- and some things were replaced for free! The doll would come back with a hospital gown, a hospital bracelet, etc.

The stories were also really believable, entrenched in historical accuracy and really dealt well with how a pre-teen girl could resolve a moral dilemma she had within her personal life --- Samantha changing her essay after Nellie told her what it was like to work in a factory despite her fears over what her grandmother and uncle would think, Felicity struggling about whether to take tea at her lessons even though her family was opposed to English rule but not knowing if that would be socially acceptable or what her tea companions and etiquette teacher would think. The history was a really important part of the American Girl books and dolls, and it was for the history and the very every day lessons they learned that I thoroughly enjoyed.

But after the introduction of Addy, which was shortly before Pleasant Company was bought by Mattel, it seemed the stories were of lesser caliber and the dolls just not as good. It also seems, and on this I could be wrong, that Mattel ceased the "doll hospital" and repairing bought dolls---maybe there's a warranty of some sort now, but that's a far cry from being able to replace a hand or a head or hair for $5 - $35 at any time.

Anyway, as regards this post, I'm not terribly surprised. I really think the AG as a brand has lost its mission and controversy is a form of free advertising. True, she's a spin off character, and I remember when there were cries for a Nellie doll, so Mattel picked up on a demand that certainly existed, which is to their business credit. But the rage for these dolls among me and my friends in the 80s was, I think, different from that of many girls today. The "American Girl' brand part of things had less to do with it than the stories and the dolls themselves. I fear that today it's all related to the brand name, and I don't think Mattel cares the same way that Pleasant Roland did about quality.
posted by zizzle at 9:51 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't underestimate the weight of this with kids.

My oldest daughter is ten, and she has two AG dolls (one of whom is Chrissa). Many of her friends have a doll or two, and they read the books with great intensity. Her grade school even showed the movie "Chrissa" last year to all the kids!

The books aren't bad, either. My daughter was given one of the "background" books for Kirsten, the Scandanavian doll (Swedish?) who moved to Minnesota. We read through the book and didn't skip a single paragraph, photo credit or caption, until we got to the two spreads about the Great Sioux Uprising -- including a giant reproduction of the huge scaffolding where forty men were hanged at the same time. No sensibility spared!

(Mind you, the "beauty salon" where they mist the doll's hair and then style it for $15 are a rip-off. But the books are OK.)
posted by wenestvedt at 9:54 AM on February 1, 2010


Yeah, Kirsten is Swedish. My own family is Swedish from Minnesota (though my mother relocated to Vermont, it was still a really strong identity for her and by association for me as well) and I totally coveted the Kirsten doll, but no way were my parents plonking down that kind of cash. I settled for gazing longingly at her photo in the catalog.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:10 AM on February 1, 2010


Rebecca Rubin may not actually be the first Jewish American Girl.

No, that would be Lindsey Bergman, who was the "girl of the year" doll probably 7-8 years back now.
posted by Flannery Culp at 11:19 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh shit, a thread about New Mexicans and I'm late to the party. I was born and raised in Las Cruces and hightailed it out of there after finishing my undergrad.

Couldn't be happier to have left NM, so take my comments with a grain of salt, but I honestly don't see what the outrage is about the "New Mexican" doll. Arizona has the Grand Canyon, Texas has cowboys and GWB, and New Mexico, well, we have kitschy Native American-themed stuff. That's pretty much how it's always been.
posted by pravit at 11:35 AM on February 1, 2010


I looked at the Rebecca AG books when they came out and was annoyed by the melodrama...

SPOILERS:


She rescues her cousin off the stuck Ferris wheel at Coney Island!
Her uncle just happens to be a film actor who gets her a part in his latest!

The All-of-a-Kind Family books (which were based on the author's real life) are far more credible.
posted by brujita at 1:53 AM on February 2, 2010


Oh man, brujita, the All-of-a-kind Family books were my favorite as a kid. I always remember how the one girl has to have thread slowly pulled through her ears to get her ears pierced.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:24 AM on February 2, 2010


Jane Eyre is the friendless orphan who suffers in total misery. The Little Princess lived in the lap of luxury by comparison, as did Anne.

The Anne books begin as her life of deprivation ends, and she is adopted by the Cuthberts, where she is finally well-treated. It's understood that before that, she was ill-fed, unloved, insufficiently dressed, and worked very hard.
posted by palliser at 7:52 AM on February 2, 2010


I liked the Boxcar Kids books. Fun and scrappy and chipper.
posted by msalt at 9:16 AM on February 2, 2010


When Anne goes to college, she has to rely on scholarships and an inheritance to pay her tuition.
posted by brujita at 11:22 PM on February 2, 2010


The first Anne novel is about being an orphan. She is no longer starving, but she has no security. She spends much of the first half worrying about being sent back. It's only towards the end of the novel that the Cuthberts truly become her parents with the unconditional love and protection that implies.
posted by jb at 7:54 AM on February 3, 2010


« Older Science fiction writer Kage Baker has passed away...  |  On the 15th of every month, fr... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments