American Girl’s World By Us Line Opens A New World Of Play
Inclusion, diversity, fairness, and more themes run through these characters and their desire for social justice.
American Girl has been a brand known for empowering young girls for a long, long time. In the ‘90s, it was a full on hobby of mine to read every American Girl magazine from cover to cover, I took great comfort in The Care and Keeping of You, and my friends and I all coveted the original five American Girl dolls and their stories of bravery, resilience, and friendship. (Naturally, I had a Samantha.)
But the brand has continued to grow and empower in new ways — their range of Truly Me dolls shows a lot of diversity in not only skin tone and hair, but abilities as well — and their new doll and book line, World by Us, is just gorgeous.
The line includes three new contemporary characters — Makena Williams, Evette Peeters, and Maritza Ochona — each of them with stories reflecting important social issues like racial equality, environmentalism, and immigration. Their sweet stories overlap as the three friends become passionate about speaking for the causes they care about, empowering each other with their own perspectives. Fairness, friendship, respect, and inclusion are big themes throughout their stories, too.
Diversity has always been a huge part of the American Girl brand, but they’re really bringing in front and center with this line, truly reflecting what it means to be an American girl. Maritza is a soccer-playing, advocating girl with a rich Latina heritage she loves to celebrate with food, music, and more. Immigration is a huge passion of hers, and she works to keep immigrant families together, advocating for all who come to America. Her book, Martiza: Lead with Your Heart, is written by Angela Cervantes.
The character of Makena has a beautiful story told in Makena: See Me, Hear Me, Know Me by Denise Lewis Patrick. Makena is a girl who loves art, her close family — which traces back to Kenya — and fashion, especially as a means to express her views. But when Makena experiences racism in her own front yard, she becomes a fierce advocate through her style to stand up for injustice.
And finally there is Evette, a lover of vintage clothes, upcycling, and protecting nature, like the Anacostia River near her home. When she finds racism in her own biracial family, she has to work to help heal not only the world, but her family and friends. Her story is told in Evette: The River and Me by Sharon Dennis Wyeth.
American Girl really committed to inclusive storytelling with this line and enabled the help of advisers with real insight into cultural authenticity and accuracy for both the books and the doll and product line. Some of the advisers include Katrina Lashley, program coordinator at Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum and leader in the Women’s Environmental Leadership Initiative, M. Lucero Ortiz, a human rights lawyer representing migrant families and unaccompanied children as well as Deputy Director for Kids in Need, Mexico, and Naomi Wadler, teen activist who, at 11, was the youngest speaker at the 2018 March for Our Lives Rally in D.C., among many others.
And the actual products? Swoon. A million swoons. In classic American Girl fashion, the dolls are beautifully detailed with critical design elements weighed in on by advisers. Everything from the skin tone of the dolls to the rope-twist braids on Makena and the textured curls on Evette have been perfectly created to represent their authenticity. Everything about these dolls, from their accessories to their clothes, is right on point with their character and stories.
But you guys — the playset. If you’ve never experienced playing with an American Girl playset, make this the first one you enjoy with your kids. (And then you can play with it all by yourself after they go to bed.) The incredible World by Us Community Center — where the friends meet in their stories — is a playset big enough for all three dolls to engage in, and it just brings the entire story to life. The structure has 360-degree play options, and tons of sweet accessories like bright furniture, posters, cushions and rugs, and more so that your kids can really create a space of harmony, inclusivity, and love. This center is so important to the stories of these dolls, and to see it come to life is an incredible way to engage your own children in what it means to be inclusive, fair, and to always fight for what’s right. The beautiful thing I’ve always found about American Girl is that the accessories are so detailed and exactly as you picture them, that they truly bring the stories front and center in an almost visceral way. The themes of social justice and diversity are strong in the stories, but acting them out right here in the very setting where the girls meet? It’s huge.
I personally can’t wait to read my own little American girls these stories and play in the community center with them. There’s so much to unpack here, but all of the themes are so subtle for our kids — resilience, friendship, fairness. They just get it. Playing with the actual dolls and opening up the community center as a safe place for them to gather and share their ideas and empower each other? I’m just in awe.
In true World by Us messaging, American Girl is also donating $60,000 worth of World by Us books to Reader to Reader, Kids Need to Read, and Little Free Library Read in Color Initiative. There is also a fashion show in collaboration with Harlem’s Fashion Row (HFR), the premier design agency that creates a bridge between brands and designers of color in fashion, to redesign the original historical dolls’ looks, and the children’s store Janie and Jack is debuting three exclusive World by Us-inspired outfits — one for each character — in a first-ever collaboration with American Girl. The Janie and Jack outfits will be available September 24, 2021, at American Girl retail stores in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Dallas, and via americangirl.com and janieandjack.com.