Claudia Kishi’s Everlasting Influence on Young Readers

If you loved to read as a child, chances are you devoured Ann M. Martin’s The Baby-Sitters Club. A series entirely featuring young girls grappling with divorce, illness, loneliness, and other realities of life, all while running their own business, The Baby-Sitters Club was revolutionary. As of 2000, the series has over 213 books. 

While the series was known for its theme of babysitting, tackling difficult situations, and female-centered narrative, there is a character who constantly stood out among the rest: Claudia Kishi. While also being considered the most stylish and creative girl in the group, Claudia is the only Japanese-American character. Claudia was one of the first Asian-Americans to be portrayed in children’s media, and she broke away from the stereotype of “being quiet and good at school.” Instead, Claudia is unconventional; she is an artist that struggles in school and often feels misunderstood by her family. More importantly, her Japanese heritage was not the focal point of her character but an embellishment. “With Claudia, it was a part of her, but it wasn’t the only part of her. That was huge,” says filmmaker Sue Ding, whose documentary The Claudia Kishi Club explores the legacy of the young babysitter and fashionista. 

For many, Claudia Kishi was the first “cool” literary character young Asian-Americans were able to identify with; in other words, her legacy will live on forever. Now adapted into a Netflix series, fans are thrilled to see that the unique essence and coolness of Claudia’s character lives on. Rising star Momona Tamada(who played young Lara Jean in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, another important piece of Asian-American media) plays Claudia in the new series. Momona read The Baby-Sitters Club novels when she was younger and cites Claudia as “the first time I saw Asian representation in a book that I read at school.”  

You can watch The Baby-Sitters Club and The Claudia Kishi Club on Netflix now. You can also purchase the series here

Kelsey Allen

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Filed under Films, Reviews

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