American Girl of Divorce

Amy Ziettlow, Institute for American Values, 12/16/2012

My first thought was that there must be some strong Gen X children of divorce in research and development at American Girl. They were Julie’s age in 1974 when they saw either their parent’s marriage or their friend’s parent’s marriages dissolve, and this doll marks that seminal event. But on the other hand, as a fellow Gen Xer, I hesitate to want to say that my generation is marked by divorce in the same way that the civil war or revolutionary war marked those generations of children. And yet there it is in the catalogue: the legacy of divorce as impactful as other forms of persecution or hardship. And for modern–day girls, just as sad.

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Subjects: Marriage, Divorce, Children of divorce

More by: Amy Ziettlow

For our family, Christmas is fast approaching and with a daughter in 2nd grade this means that an American Girl catalogue lies in almost every room, various dolls and accessories circled in each one. The obsession with American Girl began several years ago with Itty baby, then evolved into a Just Like Me doll, and now seems to be moving into the historical dolls, a move I celebrate. Each period doll comes with chapter books and a history to read – which one would pique her interest?

So, this morning I saw that she had circled one, one that looks like a lot like her, and I decided to sit with her and read more about her and the other choices. For some background – each doll represents a distinct time in history so you have Kit from 1934, who lives through the Great Depression, or Felicity from 1774, who lives in America on the brink of Revolutionary War, or Addy from 1864, who lives during the Civil War, or Kaya from 1764, who lives as a member of the Nez Perce. The doll we started reading about, Julie Albright, is from 1974. Ooh, I thought, I wonder what historical event of the 70's they'll highlight? Nixon? Inflation? Nope. Divorce. Yes. Julie lives in San Francisco, her favorite dessert is, of course, chocolate fondu, and what changes her life is: her parents' divorce.

Like a fool, I was reading all these bio's out loud, and our daughter's face fell as she heard Julie's story. "Well, that's SAD!" she proclaimed. I quickly noted mentally that we had already read about living through war, slavery, and persecution, all VERY sad, but for most young children reading this catalogue war, slavery, and persecution do not live with them. Their parents do. So, the saddest doll is the divorce doll.

I don't know what to think about all this. My first thought was that there must be some strong Gen X children of divorce in research and development at American Girl. They were Julie's age in 1974 when they saw either their parent's marriage or their friend's parent's marriages dissolve, and this doll marks that seminal event. But on the other hand, as a fellow Gen Xer, I hesitate to want to say that my generation is marked by divorce in the same way that the civil war or revolutionary war marked those generations of children. And yet there it is in the catalogue: the legacy of divorce as impactful as other forms of persecution or hardship. And for modern-day girls, just as sad.

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