Meet the Badass Hawaiian Grandma Who Inspired American Girl’s Latest Doll

An 81-year-old grandmother from Hawaii has inspired the creation of American Girl’s latest doll called Nanea.

Dorinda Makanaonalani Nicholson is a “child of war” who lived through the aftermath of the devastating Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. According to Today, she was six years old when the bombs hit the harbor.

Serving on the advisory panel for the doll whose backstory is set in Pearl Harbor in the 1940s, Nicholson will now be sharing her story, providing details on what it was like growing up amid the brutality of war.

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A historical researcher for American Girl first came across her book, “Pearl Harbor Child: A Child’s View of Pearl Harbor from Attack to Peace,” which eventually prompted the company to approach Nicholson.

The children’s book provides a unique perspective on World War II with the backdrop of the infamous surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service.

“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,” said Nicholson.

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She revealed that at the time of the attack, she was living with her parents, a 2-year-old brother, and a dog named “Hula Girl” on the island of Oahu. When World War II ended, Nicholson was already in the fifth grade.

“I carried a gas mask everywhere I went and I could not be outside after dark,” said Nicholson.

She noted that her school was converted into a military hospital and air raid drills were frequently conducted.

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“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.”

She explained that with Nanea, American Girl will be able to help spread awareness to young people.

“You ask almost any American family if they have World War II history and they’ll say yes,” Nicholson was quoted as saying.

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“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.”

Nanea, who is a part of American Girl’s BeForever line, has her very own series of three books that flesh out her story.

American Girl President Katy Dickson is pretty optimistic that many girls will find Nanea’s story relatable in some way.

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“We hope Nanea’s powerful story of resilience, responsibility to others, and contributing for the common good—or kokua, as it’s known in Hawaii — will resonate with girls and show them they have the power within to face the obstacles that come their way,” Dickson said.

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