Portland State University. Department of English
Book industries and trade, Children’s literature
American Girl is a highly recognizable brand that wears several hats: publisher, dollmaker, and purported educator. Yet many researchers point out a disconnect between merchandise-driven aspects of the company and its educational qualities, as well as the set of cultural values suggested in material consumption versus the brand literature’s stated representation of girlhood. This paper outlines research pertaining to these issues before engaging in a close reading analysis of one of the historical character’s book series, ascertaining how the aforementioned concepts play out in the text itself. Assessment of American Girl consumption practices further draw from the brand’s website and features of its flagship brandstores. This paper concludes that there is indeed a disparity in experience between an American Girl consumer and an American Girl reader; moreover, young readers are presented with a harmfully simplified version of US history as to not impede the brand’s ability to create an identity in girls that lends itself to specific purchasing practices. This research thus illustrates the importance of looking beyond a brand’s claimed values, and indicates more responsible approaches to children’s historical fiction for those publishers looking to connect with readers in a more genuine way.
Loepp, Sarah, "Consumerism-Driven History: The American Girl Brand as Publisher and Arbiter of Girlhood Identity" (2019). Book Publishing Final Research Paper. 41.