The series you loved, book by book. Join Allison Horrocks and Mary Mahoney as they explore the wild world of American Girl fandom. In each episode, Allison and Mary will dive into an American Girl book from their (and perhaps your) childhood. Using their knowledge as professional historians and finely tuned instincts as amateur pop culture critics, they’ll take you back to a very different time—the 1990s.
In this episode, we talk about the misadventures of not one, but three American girls who have found themselves in the Big Apple. After briefly recounting their experience at the American Girl Store in New York, NY, Mary and Allison launch into Kirsten’s first book, set in 1854. In under 60 pages, Kirsten’s story covers the travails of mid-19c immigration, cholera, steamboats, the thrill of hot train rides, and long walks to new beginnings. As they rediscover Kirsten’s life and times, the hosts also consider other children’s literature on migration and favorite primary sources on historic disease (miasma talk anyone??). In the words of the Larsons - have heart and come along for this next AG adventure.
On this very special episode, Allison and Mary talk with Allison Marek, a psychotherapist specializing in working with people with eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and trauma. After we Meet Allison, she teaches us about the enneagram and shares her journey with American Girl. Allison then offers her professional perspective on the death of Mrs. Montoya, Mr. Montoya's unhealthy communication style, and Josefina's feelings of shame. This episode also includes insights into how you can be a good friend to someone who is grieving and healthy ways to process your emotions. Don't miss this conclusion to our summertime sadness and coverage of Josefina.
You can learn more about Allison Marek on her website: https://allisonmarek.com/
In this episode, the hosts examine fan fiction about Josefina Montoya. After quickly realizing that there was a comparative dearth of material about Josefina and the Montoyas, Allison and Mary got to work and commissioned their listeners. As we are now all fond of saying, "Tia Dolores did it," and in this case, you did, too. Through the written word and through song, listeners took action and demanded new pasts, futures, and journeys for Josefina and Tia D. We consider the major trends and the bleak plotlines imagined by Josefina's fans. In the realm of pop culture, we also give our takes on the elite politics of Succession and the artwork of Amalia Mesa-Bains. Stick around for the end of the episode when we announce the winner of our first ever #GOAT Goat Writing Contest.
In the last book in the Josefina canon, we find that it is not just
comedies that end in weddings--sometimes tragedies do too. To bring
the Montoyas' story to a close, author Valerie Tripp arranges a
marriage between Papa and Tia Dolores, who will now take on the mantle
of stepmother. While this book finds Josefina pondering the future of
her family, Mary and Allison use this opportunity to consider the
overall arc of the series and what it conveys about nationalism. The
hosts also consider a new line of empowerment Barbies, some important
news coverage, and an Ashanti sighting.
In Josefina Saves the Day, the Americans have arrived and things get (el Camino) Real for the Montoyas and everyone’s favorite interloper, Tia Dolores. For this summer story, the family visits grandpa’s compound just outside of Santa Fe for a big trade meetup. Armed with the fruits of Tia D’s forced labor experiment, they are ready to make some cold hard coin. After luring a young Missourian scout with a clay pipe, Josefina fears that the Jason-Bateman-like Patrick O’Toole is not a trustworthy trade partner. Eventually, Josefina channels both Felicity Merriman & Nancy Drew to save the family’s big trade, but not before a bizarre night out in Santa Fe. As Mary and Allison discuss Josefina’s spring-break-like jaunt, they consider what it means for her to be an “American” hero in the context of US imperial intrusion. They also tackle the film trailer of the moment, LITTLE WOMEN, pig history, and most important of all, a Leo season engagement.
Why do fools fall in love? Why is the earth round? What is the meaning of life? Does Mary have a seltzer preference? We answer some of these questions, and many more, in this very special episode. During this brief detour from Josefina’s summertime sadness, we take listener questions and read from some of our correspondence with listeners. Trust us, it’s worth the Tripp.
Josefina: you know her, you love her, and at this point, you wish she could just catch a break. In book four, we find Josefina learning healing practices, both losing and then gaining a goat, and getting shortchanged on her first double -digit birthday. Though most of this book is about Josefina learning to do emotional labor and herbal medicine, Mary and Allison took this opportunity to examine whether Ms. Montoya is really a Pisces or is perhaps a Cancer or Taurus. They also question the continued lack of joy and friendship in Josefina’s life and the heavy overtones of Catholic shame that tinge her one moment of youthful hijinks. Finally, the hosts consider a few of the podcasts and television shows that are part of their world this summer.
Surprise! We are three books into the Josefina series and everyone in the Montoya household is still super sad. As Mary and Allison continue their exploration of Josefina’s colonial world, they find her Christmas story to be both deeply moving and riddled with Catholic guilt. As the sisters continue to grapple with the loss of Mama, their grief is eclipsed only by Dolores’s drive to work. While evaluating the town’s Freudian passion play that is at the center of the action, Mary reveals her own thespian past & a Quincinera connection. Finally, after unlocking a potential connection to the film Sister Act 2, Mary and Allison consider how religion has shaped American girls from Josefina to Hannah B. Perhaps most importantly, the hosts also use this episode to consider whether Bachelor contestants are most deserving of encounters with the sublime (i.e. Vermeer paintings and Dollywood).
In Episode 10, we explore Josefina Learns a Lesson, the second book in the Josefina series. One lesson we learn right away is never to judge a book by its (beautifully illustrated) cover. Though this book promises a school story, what it delivers is a story about a family being schooled by their once-absent aunt, Tia Dolores. Following a disastrous flood, Tia Dolores seizes her chance to inflict her priorities on the family. After making the family business solvent, Dolores begins her hotly contested campaign for literacy. Over the course of this episode, Mary and Allison consider Josefina's growing skillset (family therapy, weaving, sewing, spreading Catholic guilt) and whether Dolores is really just fleecing the Montoyas. We also wrap up our coverage of the HBO mega-hit Gentleman Jack, Taylor Swift’s contribution to Pride Month, and the couple bringing measles back.
In episode nine, we turn our gaze to the American Southwest & the youthful, plucky Josefina Montoya. Our analysis of Josefina’s books begins with two powerful questions—first, given the place and time, is this the story of a colonial girl? Second, just how many references to Tejana queen Selena will we make per episode? While representations of imperialism in early American history are hard to unpack, over the course of this show, we’ll reveal why Meet Josefina had us reeling for still other reasons. Maybe you didn’t see how this book set in an 1820s borderland community (what’s now New Mexico) was essentially ripped from the 1990s melodrama THE PIANO.
But once you hear our take on Tia Dolores, you’ll see that’s why we’re here—note: we are also here to remind you of 90s crossover stars gone too soon.
At the end of this episode, we put out a special call for you to contact our hotline! You may reach us at 1-860-455-4091 with YOUR hot takes for Pride Month 2019. Whether you think Molly is the queerest of them all, or just have to share your Samantha take, reach out to us!
If we've said it once, we've said it at least a dozen times: if Felicity was good enough to launch Shailene Woodley’s career, it is more than enough for this podcast. In episode eight, we consider Woodley’s turn as a spunky colonial frenemy in Felicity: An American Girl Adventure (2005). Along the way, we ask important questions about its team of producers, which was mysteriously led by none other than America’s sweetheart, Julia Roberts. This line of inquiry includes a stunning and hair raising revelation by Mary. We also wonder aloud why grown men take time to consume this material in a hate-watch fashion & then post about it. Lastly, Mary and Allison share their thoughts on the HBO-produced show everyone is talking about, and no, there is not a throne, but there is a queer hero.
Upon completing the six canon Felicity books, Mary and Allison turn to fan fiction. In addition to reading some fans’ stories that fall within the Valerie Tripp timeline, they investigate alternative narratives, including a Men in Black II crossover. Inspired by the wild world of Felicity fic, the hosts pick up their own proverbial quill and imagine a few other Felicity plots. This episode also includes Olsen twin news and an Ann Rinaldi bombshell.
If times are a changin, why does so little happen in this book? During this final Felicity saga, friendships are tested, grandfathers and town frenemies fall ill, and a foal is born. While reflecting on this journey we’ve taken with Williamsburg’s fave redhead, Mary and Allison question not only her development arc, but the redemption of Jiggy Nye and the absolution of Felicity’s grandpa. Last but never least, we find ourselves reeling over recent news on the collapse of the British empire (see: cheating rumors of Prince William) and America’s favorite not-a- girl-not-yet-woman Britney Spears.
In book five, it’s the summer of 1775 but the spirit of 1776 is heating up along with the temperatures in colonial Virginia. Mrs. Merriman is pregnant, Mr. Merriman is having financial troubles, and Felicity is her usual spirited self - so the family of course takes a road trip to grandpa’s. But this journey through the woods includes a lurking Ben, who’s broken his apprenticeship and leg. Felicity will have to make some tough choices about loyalty and dependence and we’ll navigate how we feel about a woman photographing a black hole. We also take a look at a recent visit to Mount Vernon and the racial politics of portraying servitude in AG.
Typically the magazines we talk about are Us Weekly and People but in this episode, Mary and Allison get into the Williamsburg gunpowder plot of 1775. Book four features Felicity’s birthday and the knowledge that as she enters her double digit years, she’s fully prepared to blow the whistle on loyalists. As we explore Felicity’s new 10-year-old level interests (gardening? the guitar!?) we weigh what it means that she’s an Earth sign & a Taurus. Last but not least, we look back at the history of children’s birthday parties. https://www.theodysseyonline.com/5-perks-long-distance-friend https://www.bustle.com/p/which-american-girl-doll-you-are-based-on-your-zodiac-sign-3267558 https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/01/the-new-age-of-astrology/550034/
There’s a governor’s ball and Felicity WILL dance (and cry along the way) if she wants to in Felicity’s Surprise. In unpacking this third installment, Mary and Allison discuss the extent to which the title character’s surprise is not just a new dress or doll but the extent to which “woke” Ben wants her to be domesticated. We also trace the feverish dots between Mrs. Merriman’s illness, The Yellow Wallpaper, and Theranos. If you didn’t see the Elizabeth Holmes/Felicity Merriman connection coming, hold your horses–there’s also a colonial Williamsburg/Bachelor Nation tie-in. This is one we couldn’t wait to drop. Great analysis of Golden Girls and chronic fatigue syndrome: https://nursingclio.org/2018/09/25/golden-girls-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-and-the-legacies-of-hysteria/ Holiday Magic is Made by Women, and it’s Killing Us: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/emotional-labor-holidaysn5a1ec905e4b0d724fed5588a
Loose lips may sink ships, and in Felicity Learns a Lesson, we learn how loose tea and teeth can bring down an empire…or just a bratty imperialist. In this episode, Mary and Allison question Felicity’s bonafides as a friend, whether Ben Franklin was an influencer, and the importance of the Yorktown tea party. We also connect the Fyre Fest debacle to colonial politics and ask a vital question: who’s looking out for Ashanti?
In their very first episode, Mary and Allison talk about their origin story, attending American Girl Live! as thirty-somethings, and Valerie Tripp’s masterwork Meet Felicity. While exploring the world set out in the Felicity books (1770s colonial Virginia) they question the title character’s exclusive devotion to freeing a local horse named Penny. Last but not least, they address an important petition on American Girl dolls and representation. Sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/american-girl-dolls-american-girl-will-not-make-a-doll-with-down-syndrome