Monday, 22 July, 2019

Laura Ingalls Wilder's Name Cut From Award For Her 'Stereotypical' Depictions

Wikimedia Commons Laura Ingalls Wilder's name removed from book award over racism concerns
Adrian Cunningham | 25 June, 2018, 23:46

The cabin at the "Little House on the Prairie" site is a re-creation built in 1977.

Wilder's first book, "Little House in the Big Woods", was published when she was 65. "Only Indians lived there", Wilder wrote.

A division of the American Library Association has voted to remove Laura Ingalls Wilder's name from a major children's book award over concerns with how the early-to-mid 20th century author portrayed blacks and Native Americans.

Wilder's name was replaced with the nondescript title "Children's Literature Legacy Award".

In a March Washington Post column, Caroline Fraser, who wrote Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, argued for continuing support and reading of the Little House books. "The ALSC Board recognizes that legacy may no longer be consistent with the intention of the award named for her".

An adult re-read reveals several characters, including Wilder's mother, saying things like "The only good Indian is a dead Indian", as well as romanticizing themes of American supremacy and manifest destiny.

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Critics have pointed out that Wilder likely did not consider the Native Americans to be the equals of the white settlers moving into their territory: "There the wild animals a pasture that stretched much farther than a man could see, and there were no settlers".

"Changing the name of the award, or ending the award and establishing a new award, does not prohibit access to Wilder's works or suppress discussion about them". Instead, they say, it should be scrutinized - and taken as an opportunity to inform children of the context surrounding it.

Many on social media were quick to slam the move. The semi-autobiographical books followed the trials and tribulations of her real-life family, the Ingalls, as they survived pioneer life in the American West.

But Debbie Reese, a scholar and the founder of American Indians In Children's Literature, celebrated the decision. "There are many more, ahead of us".

"We believe it is not beneficial to the body of literature to sweep away her name as though the perspectives in her books never existed", they said.