Meet Celia: A Gluten-Free American Girl

Last week, we took a look inside the lunch box of a modern American Girl doll. There were sandwich skewers. The times, they are a’changin’—why, the only accessory my Samantha doll had was a comb.

The accessories aren’t all that have kept pace with our modern era. The books have, too. They used to focus on the historical American Girls and followed a great six-book formula: we meet the protagonist, she learns new things about herself and the world, she overcomes obstacles, she comes out of it a changed and better person. All between the ages of nine and eleven.

American Girl TodayThese days, they publish under the series American Girl Today. There are fewer books for each girl, and they have modern names like Nicki and McKenna. They pose against technicolor backgrounds doing modern-girl things like gymnastics.

I don’t mean to knock the new books—I haven’t even read them. But they did have a good thing going with the old series. In honor of the beloved classic formula, I hereby introduce to you a new American Girl. Like more and more girls (and boys) today, our heroine must eat gluten-free. I’ve dubbed her, for obvious reasons, Celia.

This is her story.

Meet Celia: An American Girl

Celia awakens on a hospital cart, still groggy from the sedative, and is told, “We think you have it.” A week later, it’s confirmed: she has celiac disease. Her life will irrevocably change. It is a sad beginning.

Celia Learns a Lesson: A School Story

The moral of this one is: never trust the hot lunch. Celia is glutened again and again until she finally agrees to start brown-bagging it.

Celia’s Surprise: A Christmas Story

At her first gluten-free Christmas, Celia is shocked by the beany aftertaste in the sugar cookies her mother has prepared, but pleasantly surprised to learn that most candy canes are gluten-free.

Happy Birthday, Celia!: A Springtime Story

In which Celia learns that she probably only has this stupid disease in the first place because she was born in the springtime. However, her King Arthur Flour GF birthday cake (like mine!) is pretty tasty.

Celia Saves The Day: A Summer Story

Celia can’t eat what the other girls are having in the camp mess hall, and when they make pasta necklaces she feels understandably left out. Still, it turns out to be worth it when, uninflamed and energized, she joins her tentmates for the end-of-summer relay race. At the finish line, she raises the baton in victory.

Changes for Celia: A Winter Story

Despite the chilly weather, Celia begins to feel awfully thirsty all the time, even while consuming jugs and jugs of water. She also seems to be peeing it all out every twenty-five minutes. After dropping an unneeded fifteen pounds, Celia visits the doctor and learns there will be changes indeed: like 5 to 10 percent of her celiac peers, she has type I diabetes. She’ll need to not only avoid gluten but also learn the ups and downs of managing her blood sugar. She’s a positive little thing, though, with a pioneering American spirit, so to her it’s all just another exciting challenge.

Do you admire Celia’s unremitting pluck, or do you sorta hate her for it?

I’m on the fence. I don’t think I have diabetes, per se, but after reading Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic (which claims that the likelihood of having an associated autoimmune disease rises to 30 percent for those diagnosed after the age of 20…gulp), I’ve begun my fretting in earnest. If I do turn out to have something else on top of celiac disease, I won’t be taking the news cheerfully.

American Girl logo (with Molly)

You’ll note I didn’t place Celia in a particular historical moment like her peers, colonial Felicity or Victorian Samantha. Those historical dolls are now being laid to rest, one by one, along with their accessories, in the “archives” (though the books, fortunately, will remain in print). Samantha, my favorite (and many of yours), was “retired” in 2008, and it was recently announced that Molly will be next.

We must accept that the past is past, unsaleable to the girls of today. We must look forward to new American Girls who better resemble the girls of today and tomorrow.

Celia lives at a time when celiac disease is better understood and more researched, but still diagnosed late, with attending complications, and incurable except by means of a lifelong diet whose cred is being rapidly eroded by claims about “fads.” In short, she lives today. We can only hope that one day, with celiac and other autoimmune diseases vaccinated into oblivion, Celia too will be rendered a historical figure, hopelessly out of date, a relic fit only for the archive.

What are your summer, spring, and winter celiac stories? What changes and surprises have you encountered (birthday or otherwise)? Do you have other autoimmune diseases and were you diagnosed before or after learning you had celiac? Have you come across any great new celiac-disease-themed kids’ books recently?

P.S. There’s still time to enter my giveaway (it runs through Tuesday) by taking the celiac disease personality quiz and reporting your score. Check it out this weekend, if you aren’t spending it at the GFAF Expo. If you are, see you there!

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10 thoughts on “Meet Celia: A Gluten-Free American Girl

  1. Dad says:

    So, when will you go beyond the precis for these books and write the stories??? I always liked reading the American Girls books with you two and look forward to reading your contribution.

  2. Hey Molly, as usual brilliantly written. I agree, the old 6 book formula was way better. Who needs modern American Girls doing gymnastics, I mean, isn’t there enough of that crap for kids? Anyway… poor Celia. She got the double doozy of diabetes, too. My daughter is 5 now and we are on the look out (paranoia) for any signs of that since she does adore sugar and has tested high in that regard before. Here’s hoping she avoids that fate. Let’s hope you avoid it too!

    • Molly says:

      I hope she avoids it, too! I have a sweet tooth and some weird symptoms, but nothing so sudden and alarming as you’d expect with diabetes, so I am probably in the clear in that regard. I hope.

      And yes, I agree. The way we need to go is NOT getting rid of historical fiction. Girls can get plenty of gymnastics by watching Disney channel!

  3. Jess says:

    Hi Molly,
    I love this! 2 of my 3 daughters are in the midst of the American Girl thing right now and we love reading the old 6 book series together (I just bought a bunch at a used book sale). I was a little too old to play with AG dolls when they first came out, I think I was in junior high, so I am living vicariously through my daughters!
    To answer some of your questions, I was born in Feb. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease (autoimmune hypothyroidism) about 7 years before my Celiac diagnosis. Now I have just found out that I have another autoimmune issue called mast cell activation syndrome, which is sort of a mild version of systemic mastocytosis (not fun!)
    I really enjoy your blog. Please keep writing!!

    • Molly says:

      Jess, are you going to write about mast cell activation syndrome on your own blog? I haven’t heard much about it yet and I’m curious. Sorry to hear you’re being hit with so much. 😦

      But I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! Thank you for the encouragement! (And everyone else who commented too—thank you!)

  4. rachelmeeks says:

    Again, I read your blog and all I can think is I love you. I never had an American Girl doll, though my young cousin is in love with them and I’ve added to her accessory collection (she has THREE dolls. THREE! I never even got one! Grumble grumble.) (I’m not THAT unfortunate. I had a my twin doll. I loved her, but was still very much left out of the American girl cliques.) I also fell in love with the name “Kit” through the American Girl movie, which I never watched but I stocked it back when I worked at a video store.

    Also, hooray that candy canes are gluten free. If I were celiac, I think I could survive on that. (confession – I hoard candy canes year round because I’m insane and can’t go without them and it’s not like the go bad, ok?!)


    • Molly says:

      Candy canes are great and well worth an inappropriate parenthesis or two! THREE dolls? Oh brother. I have a spoiled cousin I’m super jealous of, too. She had a cell phone and harp lessons practically right out of the womb. :p

  5. […] I found I had more to say than, “What if Moaning Myrtle, or Mr. Darcy, or an American Girl had celiac […]

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