In Fandom, The Next Generation, I explore the shifting reception to the girls’ chapter book series The Baby-Sitters Club – originally published between 1986-2000 – as fans of the series age and reengage with the text as adults, and new generations of fans come to the series. In my chapter, I focus on an authethnographic account of my own reception and fandom, trying to retroactively trace a queer identification with the text. Additionally, I discuss the identificatory pleasure of my favorite sitter, Claudia Kishi, as a fully realized and culturally specific Japanese-American character for Asian readers.
This identificatory pleasure of nuanced Asian representation was rare for girls to experience at this time. Sue Ding’s 2020 documentary short, The Claudia Kishi Club, argues this point by interviewing Asian American media industry professionals who identified with Claudia in their childhoods. Ding creates a correlation between the fannish enjoyment of Claudia and a desire to create more Asian representation, highlighting their production of various media texts (comics, blogs, book series) that focus on Asian characters and even further expand the Baby-Sitters Club universe (Gale Galligan writes and illustrates the BSC graphic novels, Naia Cucukov is an executive producer of Netflix’s recent BSC adaptation).
Ding’s documentary also includes music from the all-girl pop rock band, The Linda Lindas, playing a song called “Claudia Kishi,” as seen in the included clip. The chorus of the song explicitly states the identificatory power of Claudia:
I am Claudia Kishi
You are Claudia Kishi
She is Claudia Kishi
We are Claudia Kishi
Notably, Claudia’s ethnicity is not mentioned anywhere in the lyrics of the song. The Linda Lindas (who self-identify as a “half Asian / half Latinx” group) instead focus on Claudia’s memorable passions: “junk food, art, style, and mystery.” The inclusion of The Linda Lindas' performance of “Claudia Kishi” in the end credits of Ding’s The Claudia Kishi Club, directly following the documentary’s concluding thoughts about the need for more Asian creators to make more Asian representation “and put [it] out in the world so everyone can enjoy” then explicitly ties the girl band and their identificatory pleasure to this larger project of representation.