Penelope with her new doll

by Lindsay Jack, California H&V

She’s Just Like Me: The 2020 American Girl Doll

When I first learned the American Girl Doll Girl of the Year was a doll who uses hearing aids and would be the first with any disability, I thought it was great and would be a perfect birthday present for my five-year-old hard of hearing daughter, Penelope. She already has two dolls that we bought aftermarket hearing aids for and attached them with glue to help them stay on. But this doll is different; she has a story about being Deaf/Hard of Hearing, and not just the accessories.

I read that there was a launch party to release their Girl of the Year, named Joss. A few days before, we showed Penelope the Good Morning America video of the announcement of the Joss doll. She was so excited that there was going to be a doll just like her. While we didn’t want to make a trek to Los Angeles on New Year’s Day, we felt it was important to attend to support American Girl in celebrating diversity and inclusivity. It was also important for us to have Penelope see this celebration. Penelope doesn’t have friends who are hard of hearing so we try to take every opportunity we can to meet others in the larger community and show her she’s not the only one. So, there we were at 10 a.m. ready to bring “Joss Kendrick” into our family.

The party was great with Joss dolls and accessories on display. The store even had surfboard crafts, a performance by a local cheerleading group as well as ASL demonstrations for all the kids who came. They printed out the signs for the alphabet to hand out and had ASL interpreters available during the party. My daughter was beyond excited. She wanted her doll opened immediately and carried her around the rest of the day.

Joss is not just a toy. She has a story told through two books about her life. She’s a surfer and a cheerleader from Huntington Beach. As we started reading Joss’ story, I loved it even more. She uses spoken language and ASL. Joss has some of the same challenges my daughter has: difficulty hearing with lots of background noise or when people don’t face her. Joss (in the story) even jokes about taking her aid out so she doesn’t have to listen to her older brother. The stories describe her determination to always go for it and try her hardest no matter what challenges she faces.

Penelope adores Joss and really sees herself in the doll. Penelope loves that Joss has “super hearing” just like her and now she wants to learn to surf so that can match even more. Joss has come with us everywhere we have gone since Penelope got her and when Penelope’s hearing aids come out for the night, Joss’ do, too. She puts them into a little case on her nightstand. It’s just amazing how this doll makes my daughter feel so happy and proud of her hearing aids.