It all started with my obsession with American Girl dolls, quite honestly.
I am still a girl at heart. My favorite color is pink. The sight of a particularly realistic dollhouse excites me. And the innocence of dressing a doll and fixing her hair up nice is still appealing.
I started with an Addy doll. That would be okay, right? As an educator, I could justify spending over one hundred dollars on a child's toy because the doll comes with books that tell about a significant time in history; my history to be exact. As well, the doll came with accessories authentic to her time in history.
This certainly was NOT a child's toy. This was a collectible that would keep (maybe even increase) for years to come.
For weeks, Addy sat atop my mantle, smiling ever so slightly at the the visitors who came to gawk at her, not truly understanding the reasoning behind a thirty-plus woman spending her hard earned money on "a toy".
But then, I found out about Cecile, a doll of color with American-American and French roots who was not a slave in the 1800's. In fact, she came from a well-to-do family in New Orleans. And American Girl had retired the doll. It was no longer able to be sold in store.
I quickly joined several doll enthusiast groups, at the chagrin of my friends and family, and went on a search for my very own Cecile Rey.
I found her, and quickly added her to my- now- collection of dolls.
My love for American Girl dolls of color, went from peaked interest to full on obsession, and before I knew it, my collection ballooned from two to nineteen. I needed every doll of color, even searching high and low for the lone Asian doll (who happens to be one of my favorites Ivy). I even started customizing dolls, creating wigs for the dolls and having custom clothing made for them to jazz them up and make them contemporary.
What does this have to do with the SweetPeas, you ask?
I am getting to that in my own long winded, over the word count limit, way.
I found that although American Girl was limited in the types of dolls of color they carried, those same DOC's were in high demand in the doll collector groups. And when I say, high demand, I mean, some dolls were easily going for $300. Some, the rarest of the rare, reaching dangerously close to the $1,000 price tag. And they were selling out in minutes.
I remember, sitting at my computer, crestfallen because the doll I craved, an Indian girl named Sonali had just been sold to a very quick responder for a little over $200. This was a total steal because Sonali had been known to sell for closer to $350-450. In the time it took me to type, Yes, I want her, someone had already swiped her up. The total transaction, from posting to SOLD, probably last a total of two minutes.
I knew there was a need for high quality dolls of color, despite the age old myth that black dolls simply don't sell.
So, that was my first thoughts came to mind in September 2016.
1.Create a beautiful black doll.
2. Make her in a variety of shades of brown, since my stepdaughter and I had just recently walked into American Girl and had trouble finding a "Truly Me" doll matching her very pale African American skin.
There was only one problem. I simply was not interested in the dolls without the books that came along with them. I felt like the books were the icing on the cake that made American Girl soar in the 1990's. I mean, when you were a girl, could you visit a public library without seeing Samantha, Molly, and Addy on display front and center. Those books found a way to sneak in an entire history lesson in one series of books. And I loved it way more than hearing about these same time periods in fifth grade social studies.
If I were going to create dolls, they needed to come with their own books that explained who they were and what their talents and struggles were.
There was one major problem. I was not a writer. I had no professional training in writing. I didn't even know how to properly begin a novel.
It was time to enlist the help of my best friend since third grade...
Lakita Wilson, M.Ed has a B.S. in Early Childhood Education and a M.Ed in Reading and Literacy. She is currently a Professor of Early Childhood Education at a small college in Maryland. She is currently creating a middle grades series entitled The SweetPeas.