What I Learned From American Girl Ivy & Julie 1976: A Happy Balance

This post was sponsored by KidzVuz for Amazon Studios. All opinions are my own.

“None of these people look like me.”
-Ivy, from American Girl — Ivy & July: 1976 A Happy Balance

Ivy on the balance beam

Photo courtesy Amazon Studios

I didn’t expect one short sentence to hit me so hard. I could totally relate to 10-year-old Chinese American Ivy’s reaction to the teen magazine that she and her best friend were reading together. Even though I’m a child of the 80s and the American Girl movie Ivy & Julie 1976: A Happy Balance is set in 1976 San Francisco, seeing Asian Americans in an mainstream media was rare.

Today, a glance at movies, television shows, magazines, and books show that things are slowly changing. We’re seeing more diversity on-screen–and it makes a difference. When our families see people like us in everyday situations, we feel like we matter. When we see families that don’t look like us in everyday situations, we can relate to them and see that they deal with the same things we do.

Ivy & Julie 1976 Happy Balance movie poster

At first Ivy & Julie 1976: A Happy Balance feels like the stereotypical story about eastern culture versus western, but what stood out to me is how Ivy (and her family) learn that both are important. Ivy’s family is preparing for a big Chinese New Year family reunion, which happens to be same day as her big gymnastics tournament. Stuck between family obligations and her passion for gymnastics, Ivy struggles to find a solution that will make her and her family happy.

When I was a new mother, I struggled to find a balance between our family’s different cultures: Vietnamese and African American. Throw in our Louisiana background–and, well, we had a lot to share with our kids.  My husband and I wanted to share these three parts of ourselves with our children. It wasn’t easy with our extended family still in Louisiana while we lived in the DC area. I had a lot of guilt about not teaching my kids how to speak Vietnamese while trying to figure out what parts of black culture and history we should teach them.

Eventually I learned the same lesson that Ivy did.

When it comes to our different family cultures and traditions, it’s not about either/or. Finding that elusive balance means and. Our family is Vietnamese and African American and Louisianian.

Ivy & Julie Chinese New Year dinner

Photo courtesy Amazon Studios

We don’t have to choose one part of our culture over another. All our parts co-exist. Sure, maybe our Asian culture takes center stage for Lunar New Year, but spring is all about our annual crawfish boil. When our kids visit my husband’s mother for the summer, they’re immersed in his family’s culture.

Ivy learns that she can be true to herself and her family at the same time.

That’s a powerful lesson for anyone, no matter your age.

Will you watch the movie with your family? What other American Girl movies do you love?

Amazon Original Special An American Girl Story – Ivy & Julie 1976: A Happy Balance premiers on Prime Video tomorrow, Friday, March 24. It’s free to stream for Amazon Prime members. The movie is based on the American Girl book Good Luck, Ivy: 1976 by Lisa Yee. The book is out-of-print but you can still purchase used copies.