Purging Laura Ingalls Wilder from the Canon

Cranach | 7/12/2018 | Staff
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Even though Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957) is a female author of true greatness, she is being purged from the canon of American literature. The author of the beloved “Little House on the Prairie” books, a thinly fictionalized telling of her own experiences growing up on the American frontier, has had her name removed from a prestigious prize for children’s literature. This will likely herald her disappearance from recommended reading lists, school curricula, and reading programs.

The American Library Association changed the name of its Laura Ingalls Wilder Award because of its author’s “expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness.” This refers to the books’ depiction of Native Americans, as seen through the eyes of a little girl in a pioneer family.

House - Books - Language - Talk - Savages

But the “Little House” books have no hateful language, no talk of “murderous savages” as is common in other writings of that times and place. There are no Indian attacks or battles against Indians, as in other pioneer novels, no mention of massacres on either side.

Indians are presented from the point of view of the little girl, who regards them with fear and wonder. A group of Indians, clad in blankets and feathers, comes through their homestead, asking for handouts. The family is worried about Indians stealing things. Pa gets out his gun in case of an Indian attack. But the portrayals are not completely negative. Laura is taken with the cuteness of an Indian baby. The Indians never harm anyone after all, and they are befriended and helped by an Osage chief.

Wilder - Offense - Mild - Pioneers - Perceptions

But Wilder’s main offense is not such mild stereotyping based on the pioneers’ perceptions and experiences. Rather, it is biographical. The Wilder family’s first homestead in the West, their first “little house on the prairie,” was as squatters on land...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Cranach
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