Calling All American Girls: You Need to Listen to This Podcast
First, a story! When I was a kid I desperately wanted an American Girl doll. Molly McIntire, specifically. My parents were NOT interested in buying me an $82 doll, but they agreed to pay for half. I made my half by reading books. I got paid $1 a book, and because I was a sneaky little kid, I tried to read super easy books to get through them faster, and therefore get my doll ASAP. I’d bring a book to show that I’d read it and my mom would look at it and say, “You think I don’t know your reading level? That’s a 25 cent book, not a dollar!” But I did eventually earn $41 and I got my Molly doll, and I will love her forever. I still have Molly and all her outfits and accessories in a trunk in my attic, and all my Molly books are in my bookcase in the living room. Molly, I’ll have you know, is the best of the original dolls, followed closely by Addy. Do not try to talk to me about Samantha or Felicity, I’m not interested. Kirsten is… neutral.
My love of American Girls runs deep, so when I learned there was a podcast about the series, I was IN, instantly. American Girls is hosted by two historians, Mary and Allison, who met in grad school (I believe they both have PhDs in history but I may be mistaken) who both grew up loving the American Girls - both identify as Mollys (rightly so). These two whip smart, pop-culture obsessed women are working their way through the original five American Girls (and Josefina) in (historical) chronological order, with each episode focusing on a book in the series, with a few bonus episodes sprinkled in. Every episode I get more obsessed with this premise and these hosts, and I knew I wanted to share the Good Word about American Girls and started taking notes, so here they are:
Mary is, I believe, my kindred spirit. PROOF: Mary’s mom is a librarian, her childhood BFF was her grandma, she loves Designing Women and The Golden Girls! She’s a Sophia, as am I.
The Felicity birthday episode! The Chinese checkers! The 9/11 double exposed with birthday photos! The Jon Benet case-solving themed party! I am WEEPING from laughter and also the acknowledgement that these two perfect women aren’t my actual friends .
Alison doesn’t like space! (this is a note that doesn’t have anything to do with American Girls but I do not like space and I revel in finding someone, anyone, who shares this opinion)
Alison’s favorite part of Little Women is Beth’s death and she identifies as a Beth????? Also they go through characters in the Felicity books and debate who they are in Little Women. 😍
Both women want to live among the Amish! They are obsessed with the Amish! (SIDENOTE: I have had a lifelong obsession with the Amish and when I was younger I wanted to be a documentary filmmaker but actually I just wanted to live among the Amish and make a movie/love letter to them. If you didn’t know, I adopted my dog from an Amish farmer who placed an ad in the newspaper that just had a picture of an armful of puppies and a phone number.)
I hope these incoherent notes make you want to listen to American Girls. This show is a BALM and I have been binge listening, but also dreading when I catch up and have to wait for each episode. I am usually completely against analyzing anything meant for children with an adult perspective, but I LOVE how Mary and Allison take their extensive knowledge of history and use it to assess these books, which where created to teach children about history.
I’m in full on fangirl mode about this podcast, and if you want to read something much more concise I’d recommend you check out this article about American Girls in The New York Times.
Check out this fantastic podcast, and delight in reliving your childhood memories. I truly cannot wait until they get to Molly, a True Patriot, a legend, a queer icon, a hero. BUT, until then I will enjoy every minute of American Girls.