American Girl's First Hawaiian Doll Is Based on a Real Grandma – Kveller
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American Girl’s First Hawaiian Doll Is Based on a Real Grandma

There’s finally a Hawaiian American Girl doll, whose story is set in Pearl Harbor in the 1940’s, and she’s based, in part, on a real life woman, Dorinda Makanaonalani Nicholson.

Nicholson was only 6 when the attack on Pearl Harbor happened. Now, she’s an author, mother, grandmother, hula hoop dancer, retired marriage and family therapist, and volunteer counseling military children and families. Her book, “Pearl Harbor Child: A Child’s View of Pearl Harbor from Attack to Peace,” is a children’s book that focuses on World War II and its aftermath.

Nicholson explains how her book was found by a historical researcher for American Girl, which inspired them to reach out and ask for her help in crafting the doll, named Nanea:

“Because I went through the bombing and lived in the middle of the harbor and went through all of it at about the same age as Nanea, they asked me to be an advisor and I was thrilled.

I carried a gas mask everywhere I went and I could not be outside after dark. We had to carry ID’s on us at all times and the money was called ‘wartime currency.’ America was bombed for two hours — and this was all a part of recent American history.”

Nicholson hopes that Nanea will help educate young children about World War II, and the cultural history of Hawaii in general, telling TODAY:

“You ask almost any American family if they have World War II history and they’ll say yes. It involved that many people — if it wasn’t your father or your brother or your uncle, it was your neighbor next door. So, Nanea tells an important story that’s a part of all of our histories.”

In particular, she also wants kids to feel safe:

“What I tell kids is whatever kind of trauma you’re going through, if you’ve got somebody in your life that you can trust and rely upon, you are fortunate.

And, if you’ve got someone that’s really important in your life, you’ve got ‘ohana which is a big part of Nanea’s story and means ‘family’ in Hawaii… But we need to have ‘ohana with our community, too.”

Nicholson’s story and perspective is so inspiring—and as we noted with previous American Girl dolls, it’s great for kids to be able to use imaginative play to learn valuable lessons from history.

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