New American Girl Book Offers Tools to Become Anti-Racist

American Girl’s new book “A Smart Girl’s Guide: Race & Inclusion” is a set of clearly written, positive suggestions for girls ages 10 and up on how to break the bubbles of implied prejudice and become anti-racist.

Written by Deanna Singh, local diversity, equity and inclusion trainer and speaker, with illustrations by Shellene Rodney, it follows the “Smart Girl’s Guide” template of short blocks of text, quizzes and infographic definitions . Rodney’s illustrations feature girls of many apparent colors and ethnic identities, as well as some girls who use wheelchairs and arm braces.

This book also has a story about a school theater club. Lucy, the white girl who is president, excludes Selah, a black girl, from lead role and cookie opportunities. Madison, another white girl, becomes a reader’s vehicle to think through prejudices and stereotypes and how to respond to them.

Madison is never the only white girl in her classes, and most books in the school library show girls like her. In contrast, Selah is often the only black girl in a room, and books with girls who love her are rare in this library. Madison’s life is often easier in ways she doesn’t even notice. That’s because the world she lives in was built to favor whites. Selah, on the other hand, runs into every day obstacles that make her feel different, discouraged and even invisible, ”Singh writes, explaining the concept of white privilege.

Deanna Singh is the author of "A Guide for Smart Girls: Race and Inclusion," a new book by American Girl, based in Middleton.

Changing behavior, especially when it comes to challenging personal or group biases, can be awkward and uncomfortable, Singh says. She recommends using the same skills as girls in situations like a camp or a new sports team: asking friendly questions, sharing personal revelations.

“It can be lonely to be from an under-represented group that faces discrimination big or small day in and day out. Think about how it feels when you have a class with no one from your group of friends. Now , imagine what it is like to be the only one of your ethnicity in a situation, ”she writes.

Be careful of situations where you judge others who are different, urges Singh.

It supports common reactions to bias issues, such as I don’t see any color. “This person isn’t celebrating differences; maybe they’re trying to get everyone to fit into their bubble,” she writes.

Singh also suggests how to react to incidents of fanatic bullying. They include the disruption of the moment and a reminder to focus on the target rather than the bully.

She recommends a quick and sincere apology when a girl makes a mistake: “When you make a mistake, and everyone else does!

Singh recognizes that opposing racism will sometimes be a lonely effort. “But don’t spend too much time trying to convince someone to be on the same path as you. Spend your time focusing on what you can do to help the targets of racism.”

Free American Girl Books About Black Characters

As part of her own equity efforts, Middleton-based American Girl has made some of her books featuring black characters and black authors available for free download at

These include Gabriela McBride, a contemporary young girl who becomes a poet to help her express herself despite her stuttering; Melody Ellison, a girl from Detroit in the 1960s whose musical background intersects with the civil rights movement; Cécile Rey, a free girl of color in 1850s New Orleans who forms a bond with a white girl named Marie-Grace despite their differences; and Addy Walker, who daringly escaped slavery with her mother in 1864. American Girl also offers free book guides and study guides featuring many of these characters.

Contact Jim Higgins at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @jhiggy.

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