It's been over two months since I've posted on this blog!
Sorry about that-and for my long disappearances on American Girl Collectors. I'm still active in the AG World-I went to the Orlando store for Melody's release and I still continue to buy from both the store and the secondhand market. I still dress my dolls in new outfits every month and display them, But with my advancing pregnancy (only about a month and a half to go!) and my job which takes up a lot of my time, I haven't had a chance to post.
I would make a promise about posting more often but it would probably be a promise I couldn't keep. Instead, I'm just going to say that I'll post as often as I can.
The reason why I'm posting now is because of the election. As we all know by now, Donald Trump won.
Part of the platform he ran on was about immigrants. He incited a lot of anti-immigrant feelings.
But immigration is one of the reasons I love the United States. The diversity of the country is wonderful. Being able to walk down a city street and hear a multitude of languages, being able to taste the foods of many different countries all without going further than five miles from your house, witnessing people practice their religions and wearing traditional clothing, being exposed to people from all parts of the world...that is what I love about America. That is the America I want my daughter to live in.
All of us, unless we are fully Native American, are the children of immigrants. Immigrants, coming to the United States for a better life that they hoped would promise more opportunities for their children, are the backbone of America. They are true Americans. They are what makes America great.
And to emphasize that, to emphasize that we are the country that asked for the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, I am going to try my best in my next few posts to highlight some American Girls that perfectly illustrate that.
Kirsten, Rebecca, Nellie (child of Irish immigrants), Ivy (grandchildren of Chinese immigrants)...they are American Girls too.
And I'm going to try to focus on the people of color that some people wish were not part of America but that very much ARE a part of America-Kaya, Addy, Josefina, Ivy, CeCe, Melody...
This is the real America. This is the real America that needs to be recognized. These dolls-even though they are fictional-represent the diverse America that is alarmed that the new administration will not protect them, as the Hamilton star Mr. Dixon said to Vice President Elect Pence. I want to highlight the contributions of those groups to America and American history, to remind all of us what makes America.
To start off, I'm going to lead with the first immigrant character that American Girl released-Kirsten, dressed in the clothes she came to America in.
Because she illustrates so many of the challenges that immigrants did (and do) face when they come to the United States.
She and her family faced a tough voyage to come to America. It was full of dangers, just as the journey to the United States is often dangerous for immigrants today. She even lost her best friend on the way-Marta died of cholera once she reached America,
When Kirsten and her family left, they knew that there was no going back. They would never see Kirsten's grandmother again-she would die without her two sons. They would never see their friends or their home country again. While travel is certainly easier today, it is still terrifying to leave behind everything you know to go to an entirely new place where you know no one.
But Kirsten's parents believed that they-and their children-could find a better life in America. And so, like thousands before them and thousands after them, they made their journey. That takes a special kind of bravery, a kind of bravery I think perfectly fits in to America, the home of the brave.
Once they were here, things were not easy. The struggle to learn English is painful and something that I, as an educator, see every day. Children will come into my classroom and some of them will not know a single world of English. They're lucky if their teacher speaks their language. I myself only speak English and have to rely on a para to help me-when she's available. But resources are scarce. Beyond that, I'm thankful for my bilingual students and the suspicious translations available through Google Translate.
Imagine for a moment how afraid my students may be when they enter my classroom. They come in and sit down. An adult (me) confronts them and starts asking them questions in a strange language which they don't understand. They try to respond but the adult clearly doesn't understand. They want to learn and they want to do well (and the adult wants them to learn and do well) but that barrier prevents it. Then they take state tests all in a language they can't read.
And not all of the adults are as understanding as I am. I try to get my notes translated over-though God knows how well I do with Google as my only ally. Other teachers may just let them sink or swim.
I'm proud to say that most of them will swim, through their own hard work and determination. But it isn't easy.
Kirsten goes through that as well, but with even fewer resources than my students have. Her teachers didn't have Google Translate. There was no para to help her learn English, no special ESOL classes to assist her.
Kirsten is a perfect illustration of the immigration experience in America. Though many of her challenges are at least partly because of the time period she lived in, her experience is still similar to that of many immigrants in all times.
Swedish Dirndl and Kerchief
I decided to feature Kirsten in the outfit she is wearing when she arrives in America. The outfit that is called her meet outfit isn't actually the outfit that we meet her in at the start of her first book-just like the Addy doll doesn't come dressed in her slave clothes but is instead attired in the first outfit she received as a free person.
The outfit came out in 1989 and retired in 2002 so it had a long run. Based on that, I wouldn't pay stupidly elevated prices for it on eBay. It isn't exactly rare. I think I paid around $40 for mine-which is $18 more than the original price but most AG outfits cost around $30 today anyway and the price included the shipping.
The outfit includes a skirt, a long sleeve blouse, a vest, and a kerchief. It is meant to be paired with her carpetbag. It is modeled after the traditional clothing that Swedish, Scandinavian, and Austrian women would wear.
Kirsten wears a vertically striped skirt. The fabric contains muted reds and blues. The red almost reminds me of a rusty color. The fabric is understated but the colors are very pretty.
Like most American Girl skirts, it velcros in the back. The waistband is fitted and then it eases into a circular skirt that reaches below the knee, which to my understanding is correct for this type of outfit.
Kirsten pairs the skirt with a cream colored blouse. It's a very plain top but that's because it's not meant to be worn alone. Without the vest, the outfit is very plain.
The sleeves are slightly puffed and end in narrow cuffs at the wrist. The neckline is high.
My blouse looks a bit yellowish but I'm not sure if it was always like this or if it's due to age.
I've noticed recently that American Girl isn't producing as many long sleeved outfits. I'm not sure why. But, like many of the older long sleeved outfits, this one has Velcro at the wrists. I really appreciate that because it makes getting the sleeves over stiff doll hands so much easier!
This shirt could potentially be used for other outfits. It almost reminds me of the white shirt that comes with her winter outfit but in a much sturdier, rougher fabric.
The vest comes in the same red and blue tones as the skirt. However, the colors are a bit more vibrant and the pattern is a plaid instead of stripes. It has black lacing up the front, which isn't real-the vest velcros in the back. However, it looks real and it doesn't bother me that you don't actually lace it. I think it makes it easier and wish that Felicity's jacket from her school outfit was the same.
However, I am a bit curious if older versions (not sure how old mine is) had real functional laces. If anyone has a version of this, let me know in the comments if yours has functional laces.
Her eyes look very blue in this picture.
Kirsten doesn't walk around bareheaded. She covers her pretty blonde hair with a dark blue kerchief that ties under her chin.
The kerchief features a floral pattern in the fabric.
While I'm glad that Kirsten comes attired in her American meet outfit that she puts on when she arrives in Minnesota, emphasizing that she is truly an American, I'm also glad that Kirsten's collection includes the outfit she made the journey in. People like Kirsten and her family had a proud heritage.
That heritage doesn't detract from being American either. The cultures of immigrants enrich the broader American culture, adding new sounds, words, foods, musical styles, clothing, values, religions, etc. Diversity isn't anything to be afraid of, though so many people are. Diversity is something to be celebrated and encouraged.
Many Americans realize that too-as long as the immigrants in question look like Kirsten. When those immigrants are people of color or people who practice other religions, the tolerance isn't so high. America seems to be perfectly fine with the Melania Trumps of the world. Accepting immigrants from places like Mexico and the Middle East is what we seem to be struggling with today. That is why I started with Kirsten, to make a point. Most of us are the descendants of immigrants-and that is something to be proud of. It takes a lot of bravery and will power to leave behind everything you know and love, like the Larsons did, in search of a better life. But why can't we recognize that when it comes to immigrants of color and immigrants who aren't Christian? Why are we so afraid?
This series on immigration and people of color in the American Girl line isn't over. I plan to be focusing on this for a while, in light of current events.