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American Girl's 1st Chinese American 'Girl of the Year' doll aims to fight AAPI hate

Corinne Tan is American Girl's 2022 Girl of the Year, and the first Chinese American doll to hold that title. The company says her story will teach kids about standing up to racism, among other lessons.
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Corinne Tan is American Girl's 2022 Girl of the Year, and the first Chinese American doll to hold that title. The company says her story will teach kids about standing up to racism, among other lessons.

Meet Corinne Tan.

The Aspen, Colo., native loves skiing and training her rescue puppy. She's adjusting to life with her new blended family. She has dark hair with turquoise highlights. And she's an 18-inch tall doll.

Corinne is American Girl's latest "Girl of the Year," and the first ever of Chinese descent.

"While filled with outdoor adventure and fun, Corinne's message is, ultimately, about the power of love — between families, friends, and communities — and the strength and courage that comes from it," American Girl General Manager Jamie Cygielman said in a statement. "We created Corinne to be a positive role model our fans can look up to and learn from as we all work toward a world where everyone is treated fairly and with respect."

The Mattel-owned doll company introduced her at the start of the year, and also announced a partnership with student-led nonprofitAAPI Youth Rising in an effort "to help amplify young voices like Corinne's."

The nonprofit aims to raise awareness about the rise in xenophobia and anti-Asian racism in America, and calls for positive change through education. American Girl says it is donating $25,000 to the group's ONE/180 pledge, which asks schools and teachers nationwide to include at least one classroom lesson about Asian American and Pacific Islander history and culture each year.

According to American Girl, Corinne's story aims to teach kids about embracing family change, sharing their feelings, tackling problems one step at a time and standing up to racism.

Bringing Corinne and her family to life was a group effort.

A five-person advisory team of various academics and athletes weighed in on Corinne's development, offering feedback on the authenticity and accuracy of the doll's features and key accessories (which include knitwear, ski accessories and a plush puppy).

American Girl puts out books that feature stories about their dolls. In Corinne's books, she's proud to be Chinese American, but is too stunned to respond when a boy at the skating rink tells her she has "Kung flu." In another incident, Corinne and her sister hear a man make a racist joke outside their mom's restaurant — and watching her mom confront him gives Corinne "the words and courage she needs to stand up to her own racist bully."

"Although surefooted and brave on the mountain, Corinne must find her balance as she adjusts to her new blended family and the courage to speak up when faced with xenophobic comments," the company says. "Through Corinne's stories, young readers learn that home means being surrounded by the people they love and to be proud of who they are, while advocating for positive change."

Author Wendy Wan-Long Shang and illustrator Peijin Yang created two books featuring Corinne and her little sister Gwynn — the first-ever Girl of the Year companion doll, according to the company.

"What I really hope is that there is some part of Corinne's story that makes readers feel seen, whether it's because they are Asian American, or they love skiing, or because they're part of a blended family," said Shang, who wrote most of the series during the pandemic. "I think when readers feel seen, they realize that they matter and their experiences matter, and that they are meant to be the stars of their own stories!"

Girl of the Year dolls date back to 2001 and, unlike traditional American Girl dolls, are based on contemporary rather than historical characters.

The company has released other Asian American dolls in the past, as CNN notes. Those include Jess Akiko McConnell, a biracial Japanese American who was the 2006 Girl of the Year, and Ivy Ling, a Chinese American doll set in the 1970s who was discontinued from its historic line in 2014.

This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.

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