Ed Lim’s daughter, Monique, was a junior now, but as she’d grown up, he and his wife had noted with dismay that there were no dolls that looked like her. At ten, Monique had begun poring over a mail-order doll catalog as if it were a book–expensive dolls, with n ames and stories and historical outfits, absurdly detailed and even more absurdly expensive.
‘Jenny Cohen has this one,’ she’d told them, her finger tracing the outline of a blond doll that did indeed resemble Jenny Cohen: sweet faced with heavy bangs, slightly stocky. 'And they just made a new one with red hair. Her mom’s getting it for her sister Sarah for Hannukkah.’ Sarah Cohen had flaming red hair, the color of a penny in the summer sun. But there was no doll with black hair, let alone a face that looked anything like Monique’s. Ed Lim had gone to four different toy stores searching for a Chinese doll; he would have bought it for his daughter, whatever the price, but no such thing existed.
He’d gone so far as to write to Mattel, asking them if there was a Chinese Barbie doll, and they’d replied that yes, they offered 'Oriental Barbie’ and sent him a pamphlet. He had looked at that pamphlet for a long time, at the Barbie’s strange mishmash of a costume, all red and gold satin and like nothing he’d ever seen on a Chinese or Japanese or Korean woman, at her waist-length black hair and slanted eyes. I am from Hong Kong, the pamphlet ran. It is in the Orient, or Far East. Throughout the Orient, people shop at outdoor marketplaces where goods such as fish, vegetables, silk, and spices are openly displayed. The year before, he and his wife and Monique had gone on a trip to Hong Kong, which struck him, mostly, as a pincushion of gleaming skyscrapers. In a giant, glassed-in shopping mall, he’d bought a dove-gray cashmere sweater that he wore under his suit jacket on chilly days. Come visit the Orient. I know you will find it exotic and interesting.
In the end he’d thrown the pamphlet away. He’d heard, from friends with younger children, that the expensive doll line now had one Asian doll for sale – and a few black ones, too – but he’d never seen it. Monique was seventeen now, and had long outgrown dolls.