Rebecca Rubin: A Nice Jewish-Russian Immigrant Living on New York's Lower East Side in 1914
(Because all of us have olive skin and brown hair, duh.)
Rebecca doll, $95
Your run-of-the mill Tenement bedroom decor, $118
Cabinet and Sabbath Set , $198
(because she doesn't roll on shabbos)
Realistic depiction of tenement life
School set, including delectable pickels, rugelach and bagel, $36
Open Letter To American Girl Dolls by Sybil Adelman Sage, Huffington Post
Mazel tov on the newest of your historical dolls, 9-year-old Rebecca Rubin being introduced on May 31, who lived in a lower East Side tenement with her Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, siblings and "Bubbie!" You took great care to veer away from stereotypes, paying particular attention to hair color, settling on brown with russet highlights, tasteful enough to have been executed by Frederic Fekkai. I commend you for not having her be ultra-orthodox, which would have afforded the opportunity of selling a wardrobe of wigs? Or were you concerned that a $20 hair styling at your salon might be too steep during this recession? Rebecca garnered the approval of Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, who deemed her kosher. We're eager to see what she'll be wearing at next year's White House seder.
Thanks to American Girl, for only $100, a girl can own a doll that will expose her to poverty and hardships, designed to straighten out her priorities so she'll value friends and family above possessions. What little girl wouldn't light up at a chance to have Addy Walker, a slave doll, that's all hers? Addy's bio tells us that she lived on a plantation in 1864 before escaping to Philadelphia with her mother.
Those of our daughters whose parents' portfolios and 401 K's have recently shrunk or disappeared are lucky if, during better times, they'd gotten Kit Kittredge, a doll who struggled with the hardships of the Great Depression. How comforting to be able to clutch Kit closely when a "For Sale" sign appears next to the family's country house. Kit emerged from the dismal period with a complete wardrobe, a $58 bed and $159 trunk. One has to hope the next generation will fare as well.
Your new Rebecca took me by surprise. Given the popularity of Molly and Emily, patriotic girls who grew up during World War II, I was sure those attending birthday parties at American Girl Place must have been desperate for another doll from that time period. I could almost hear them whining, "I want a survivor doll!" That's why I was expecting Miriam, who'd come on the scene with a splashy party at the Holocaust Museum., her bio revealing that she'd been hidden from the Nazis by a family in the Ukraine, now honored in Yad Vashem's Garden of the Righteous. Filling out the story would be that Miriam's entire family, including her younger sister, Rivkeh, had been wiped out in one of the camps. Our girls would order the striped pajamas to match Rivkeh's from your catalog, making them the envy of their bunkmates at Maine sleep-away camps.
The other doll I'd been anticipating is Ming Lee. We learned that she'd been adopted from a Chinese orphanage and flown to America to join her celebrity family and meet her Ethiopian and Cambodian siblings. Ming Lee would show girls that in the bleakest of moments, life can turn around in a nanosecond with one nod from Angelina Jolie. Interestingly, China tightened its laws, refusing to allow adoption by anyone whose net worth is under $80,000. Ming Lee would be the gentle reminder that you need big bucks to get a Chinese child or doll.
I've no doubt that your birthday parties -- $450 for eight children (not including gratuities, wardrobe and shopping) -- are the place to see and be seen. You've gotten favorable press by donating to charity, but, even so, parents may be considering more modest ways of celebrating, perhaps at home, in a park or at Chuck E. Cheese. My hope is Rebecca Rubin, when she marries and becomes Rebecca Rubin Rabinowitz, will make that choice for her daughter.
You report having made considerable effort to avoid offensive stereotypes in the development of Rebecca Rubin. Am I the only one questioning your selling a triple bunk bed priced at $215 and a doll storage chest for $349 to accompany dolls purporting to impart values? And how are poor girls to learn about struggling? Oh, right, they have real life for that.
Last year you took in an impressive $463 million, but given the current economy, profits are likely to slack off. Girls may have to drag out an old Barbie and redress her in today's fashion statement. Maybe Pink Slip Barbie?
I know some of you played with these as children. BTW, where's Samantha and who are these new doll imposters?