|By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, IMDiversity.com Asian American Village Acting Editor
I am very sad this year to be reaching the end of my Asian doll buying age. My youngest daughter is about to turn seven and will soon stop playing with dolls. Still, I can probably get away with buying her just one more doll this year. However, the good news is that with a little boy, I now have a whole new world of Asian boy dolls to begin exploring.
Here are some treasures I discovered in my initial forays into online Christmas shopping. Remember to always buy things online from reputable stores and be careful with your personal information and credit card numbers. The websites listed here are informational in purpose only. Make your own judgments.
My Final Asian Barbie (and First Hapa Barbie?):
This year, Chinasprout.com has a new line of Asian Barbies called “Fashion dolls” that are Asian in appearance, with big eyes (not as big as Bratz), and dressed in cool East-meets-West fashions. Furthermore, as we know, Asian hair comes in all shades of black and dark brown and some very fashionable people have been known to dye their hair brown. So some of these dolls appear (from the photos, I haven’t actually received my doll yet) to have brown hair. Finally! A passable hapa doll—Asian features, big non-squinty eyes, and brown hair!
Check out http://chinasprout.com/shop/toys/fashion
American Girl goes Hapa
Many parents have been lobbying the American Girl company to introduce some Asian American girl dolls. (One Japanese American dad blogs humorously about the unlikely image of an Emi-goes-to-Camp doll, complete with family id number tag around her neck and accessory of one suitcase that holds “as much as she could carry.”)
This year, American Girl introduced their first honest-to-goodness intentionally biracial doll, Japanese-Irish American, Jess Akiko McConnell, and named her “2006 Girl of the Year.” (Interestingly, this is the first doll in their line to ever have a middle name—I guess so you can tell for sure she’s hapa.) She also comes with a book, Jess, that details her adventures in Belize on an archeological dig with her parents. (Interestingly, they have an Asian girl photographed on the cover of the book…again, I guess so people can tell for sure she’s Asian…although to give them credit, they do have a hapa girl dressed up like the doll on their website.) You can buy the doll together with the book, or separately. But jokes and snide comments aside (like buck-teeth on an Asian doll? What were they thinking?), she’s kind of cute. And a first of its kind.
Asian Boy and Girl Baby Bottom Doll
Now that we have one boy in a household of sisters, what boys and girls have “down there” is suddenly a lot more interesting. Enter the Anatomically Correct Asian Boy and Girl Baby Bottom dolls. The dolls all have round eyes, and the boy dolls don’t have any hair, so if your family has darker skin than the extremely fair “Asian doll,” you could try the Hispanic doll (the Hispanic girl has a wisp of brown hair) and the African American doll—I think they could easily pass for Filipino, Indian, Pacific Islander, hapa, Californians, and others. The only weird thing is that although the boy doll is anatomically correct “down there”—and he’s plush so he may or may not be circumcised—and also has a belly button, they forgot to give him nipples. Otherwise, the doll is plush and cuddly and oh so cute. Available at Asiaforkids.com.
Plush Hapa Dolls from Hawaii
Every summer when we go to Hawaii to visit family, we stock up on hapa dolls. Now you can find these dolls online at Islandfriends.com and save yourself the plane fare. They are plush with soft brown skin and yarn hair, and are totally adorable and totally hapa. Some have Hawaiian hula outfits, but many have regular clothes and better! Kayla, from Big Island has two long brown braids and is dressed in a cute paniolo outfit—when are you ever going to find a hapa or Asian doll dressed up like a cowgirl? Kaitlin has two long brown braids and wears a T-shirt and shorts. Malia has long streaked brown hair and wears a flowered halter top and skirt. Our favorite, though, is boy doll, Keanu, who comes complete with surfboard and tattoo. Little Brother spent all of last summer throwing this doll off the upstairs porch balcony and then “rescuing” it by pulling it back up by a rope he had tied around its ankle. Boys are different.
Keanu Reeves Hapa Action Figure
Speaking of Keanu, I’ve discovered that for boys, Barbie-type dolls are called “action figures.” Check out this Keanu Reeves as Neo from the Matrix action figure—our most famous hapa brother in mainstream media—looking ever so cool in his swirling black coat and shades (and machine gun…oops, I guess not for little children). (The Rock also has his own action figure—he’s hapa, too.) Available at Amazon.com.
Anime and Manga Action Figures and Accessories
My daughters have just discovered manga and anime this year. There are so many manga and anime action figures and accessories (toys, backpacks, calendars, etc.), many of whose characters are Japanese. Of course, many are also half-demons, but we who are so used to being marginalized by the mainstream take our Asian representations however we can. (Hmmm, are half-Japanese and half-dog demon characters hapa?) There are too many popular series to know what to recommend. Ask what your teens and preteens are reading (Helpful parenting tip—you should really read a few yourself to see if you think they are appropriate, as most are incredibly violent and sexy). You can also pick up the books in Japanese for extra-cool cache (they’re cheaper than the English versions). Drop the words shojo and shonin if you want to really impress the kids with how tragically hip you are.
It doesn’t all have to be violence and material excess this Christmas, here are some educational stocking stuffers. My kids groan, “Not another book,” but if your kids don’t always get books, like mine do, they should be pleasantly surprised. You’ll need something to keep them busy (and laughing out loud) over the break anyways. Available at Amazon.com.
Teens and preteens
Spam Musubi Magnets
For cool Asian Pacific Americans in the know, there is nothing hipper than Spam Musubi. Nikkei Traditions in the heart of San Jose’s Japantown has a whole page dedicated to Spam on their website, including Spam cookbooks and a Spam slicer. Check out these hysterical Happy Spam Musubi Magnets made by Japanese American artist John Nishio. They also have musubi pillows and happy hand-painted musubi shoyu bottles. Yum!
Model Minority and Computer Geek Stereotypes aside, we all know that we all have at least one computer or science geek in each and every one of our families. Probably not you, though, since you’re reading this article, you must be the liberal arts one. So what to buy our computer and science geek brothers and sisters (who already have every high tech gadget ever and are all way richer than the rest of us)? Thinkgeek.com! This is not specifically Asian, except in its catering to the really smart (That’s a joke, don’t send me nasty emails about how I’m perpetuating the stereotype, please). Thinkgeek.com has T-shirts, bumperstickers, toys, gadgets, gizmos for the geekiest of our kin with sayings like, “There’s no place like 127.0.0.1,” “There are ten kinds of people, those that understand binary and those that don’t,” “Go away or I will replace you with a very small shell script,” and “I’m with genius” (with an arrow pointing up) and lots more that I am clearly not smart enough to understand. They also have Star Trek phasers, USB missile launchers, and a Ninja Attack catapult that launches little plastic Ninjas (in four different poses) at unsuspecting office mates…ah, at last, an Asian American connection. Thinkgeek.com.
APA Charitable Giving
One other tradition that hits December 31 is the mad writing of checks to nonprofit organizations to get your last 2006 charitable donation tax deductions. Here’s a tip. Do it by December 25 and donate in the name of your teachers, relatives, friends, and other obligatory gifts. Sometimes you can even donate in the name of a few different people at one time. You can really help your favorite APA nonprofit organizations, help our communities by the work they do, get one difficult present checked off your list, and appear virtuous and poised in the process. (Note: “In Memory of” is for people who have died that you want to honor, “In Name of” is for people who are alive that you want to honor. Be careful which box you check!)
Happy Holidays! My wish to you this season is that you have more fun gifts to buy than obligatory gifts…and lots of roast duck stuffed with sticky rice!
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