It is hard to imagine an object more haunting and emotionally charged than a broken doll. “I still tear up every time I see a discarded toy,” says Olga Inguz from Kurgan, Russia; “I used to pick them up often when I was a child: broken cars, dolls with broken limbs; sometimes I would find ones that are not broken.” Thrown away dolls, with their eyes plaintively returning our gaze, are at once repulsive and fascinating, sad and scary. They certainly invoke our sympathy: after all, anthropomorphic dolls, teddy bears, or robots were our first friends, confidantes, first projections of our affections and familial attachment. A doll with a missing limb suggests a story of yet another childhood vanished, innocence lost. That is why so many of our contributors speak about the desire to give a second life to discarded toys, to repair and make them beautiful again. Omnidoll from Garden Grove, California, tells a story of a childhood spent building an elaborate world for her dolls from trash, a talent that she has carried over to her adult world as well: “The skills and eye for small things I gained then assist me now in repairing old dolls and making dolls for my renewed pleasure as a grown up and to give pleasure to children and adults whose dolls I fix. I am grateful that I did not lose my ability to appreciate overlooked objects.”
Here we highlight featured stories from the archive, contributions by fellow writers and artists, as well as reflections and comments on the value and impact of discarded objects in our world.