Let’s celebrate – American Girl’s 2022 Girl of the Year doll is Corrine Tan, a Chinese American character hailing from Colorado! She also comes with a “little sister” doll, Gwynn, the first time American Girl (hereafter AG) has packaged a Girl of the Year with a sibling. Neither my daughters nor I have read the Corrine books yet, but reportedly, Corrine explores her Asian heritage as part of her storyline, and she even has to deal with anti-Asian prejudice on some level. And AG tapped none other than Wendy Shang, author of the popular middle grade novel The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, to pen the Corrine stories. Big thanks to AG and its parent company Mattel!
But I do want to correct a bit of misunderstanding. NBC News’ website (see above link) is calling Corrine AG’s first Asian American Girl of the Year, which she isn’t. There’s no question that anytime a mega brand like AG brings consumers Asian American representation through one of its most visible products, that it’s a win. But there have been Asian Girls of the Year before – the 2006 Girl of the Year, Jess Akiko McConnell, has a Japanese mother, and the 2011 Girl of the Year, Kanani Akina, has a Japanese-Hawai’ian dad. And there are AAPI dolls in AG’s other lines, including 1940s Nanea Mitchell in their best-known BeForever collection and Emerson in their Wellie Wishers set. (My daughters’ immediate comments on seeing the 2022 dolls were that Corrine has the same face mold as Nanea, and Gwynn looks like Emerson with straight hair.) That being said, Corrine is still a delightful addition to the Girl of the Year line; I mean, check out the baozi and boba that’s part of her home life set!
AG has had a mixed track record with Asian representation, one that I’ve commented extensively on, with respect to retired dolls Ivy Ling and Z Wang and their online specials and books. But it is heartening to see this victory for representation!