Leading Ladies: Children’s Literature through the Lens of American Girl

Presentation author(s)

Julia Dirkes-Jacks ’20, Evanston, Illinois

Majors: Literary Studies; Creative Writing; Theatre Production; Theatre Performance


This project looks at how the genre of Children’s Literature has changed over the past forty years, using the American Girl books as a critical lens. Initially I planned for this project to have a creative component where a group of actors and I would travel to local elementary schools and public libraries and perform a live short play based on American Girl stories. However, this element of the project was made impossible by school closures resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak. I will discuss how the American Girl brand has remained on the cutting edge of four key areas that are also important within the broader genre of children’s literature: diversity/inclusivity, values, marketing, and the tangible extension of story through material objects that allow for children to engage in creative play (in the case of American Girl, their line of dolls, accessories, and other toys).

My presentation will discuss conclusions that I have drawn through interviews with experts in the field and an analysis of literary criticism, American Girl novels, and other works of Children’s Literature from the past four decades. Although the live performance aspect of my project will have to be tabled for the time being, I am hopeful that I can pursue it in the future.


Tamara Ketabgian

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