American Girl Doll Movie Melody 1963

We’re in an era where information is the most accessible. Answers to questions about people, places, and things are accessible with the stroke of our fingertips and a few button clicks. 2020 has heightened the importance of representation and communicating the stories of others around the world––both those in this lifetime and past centuries. I was reminded of the importance of representation and how impactful it is to the younger generations and how much of an impact it has on helping to form an individual’s identity when I was watching An American Girl Story on Amazon Prime.

I grew up playing with American Girl Dolls (AGD), reading the books, and I was a part of the generation who experienced for the first time those books being turned into movies! It was a BIG deal and milestone in the early 2000s. I had an AGD that looked like me. In fact, they all kind of did…pale skin, blue eyes, freckles…I didn’t think of all of the representation that I had access to and how that inspired me until 2020 when I sat down at my keyboard to write a manuscript. I thought of how powerful books, movies, music, certain public and historical figures, etc. were in my childhood and how I was able to see paths that I could walk throughout my life if I dared take the steps. I also became more aware of representation and sought this out when I sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury in 2017 and felt like I was walking along and lonely road alone. There are also mindset shifts I’m having to make in adulthood that I hadn’t realized were a large part of not seeing and hearing about women in that area. For example, women in STEAM/STEM, sustainability and environmental careers, and more. As I was crafting my characters and thinking about the qualities and lifestyle of those that impacted me growing up, I felt a wonderful sense of responsibility to write characters that the next generation of kids will find comfort, inspiration, and feel like they could relate to. And so, this has me keeping an eye out in the non-manuscript writing part of my days how I can bring this into my life and create an environment others feel welcome and encouraged to step into and stay in.

How to help the younger generation feel represented:

  1. Talk about people who are in one way similar

It’s important to point these things out in a healthy way to the younger generation so they see there is representation. Whether it be in:

  • Appearance

  • Interests

  • Geographical location

  • Desired occupation

  • A trauma

  • Family history

  • Personality trait

2. Engage in more diverse options

  • Movies

  • Tv shows

  • Music

  • Books

3. Research together

If you’re not sure about any of the options above to present to the younger person or people in your life, make an effort to find the answers together.

  • If you’re a teacher, make it a class assignment.

  • Parents/guardians, use this as a bonding technique or family challenge.

  • Mentors, use this as a way to stay connected with your mentee.

  • If you’re a business owner/boss, look at the schedule and pause or rearrange tasks/projects to have a company-wide information/learning day. Invite employees to participate in their own individual or group research and encourage them to share their findings. This can be via a Google Drive folder, email thread, or presentation if people are comfortable.

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