It’s a new year, which means a new American Girl. This year’s version is Saige, a nine-year-old student of art and horses from New Mexico. Saige loves to spend her time with her grandmother Mimi, an acclaimed artist and owner of a rare breed of horse, the Spanish Barb. When Mimi is hurt in a home accident, Saige must think of ways to help her grandmother get back on her feet (literally) and back up in spirit. At the same time, Saige launches a campaign to start afterschool art lessons, since their school system cannot afford to have both art and music. Eventually, Saige succeeds at both her goals, resolves her friendships and celebrates her tenth birthday on a high.
I’ve said before that the American Girl brand is a mixed bag with me. The qualities the books espouse, including their non-fiction range, are wonderful qualities to have: friendship, family, self-confidence, healthy habits, physical fitness, environmentalism and conservationism. Our girls (and boys) could always use a dose of that, and in general, the stories are well researched and well written. What bothers me (aside from the crass consumerism of the brand), is the racial disparity. Since 2001, there have been eleven girls of the year (no girl was issued for 2002 or 2004), there has been one Hispanic girl, one girl of mixed heritage, one Hawaiian national, and no African American girls. In fact, in the entire realm of American girl dolls/books, there are only two black faces: Addy, an escaped slave, and Cecile, a free black living in New Orleans in 1853. All together, the American Girl family is very, very white, and it’s a poor representation of our country. I say it’s high time for the company to get with the times and start offering all our girls a chance to see themselves in their books.
Saige and Saige Paints the Sky by Jessie Haas
2013, American Girl Publishing Inc.