Thursday, 20 September, 2018

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name stripped from literary award over racism concerns

Commons Commons
Jeannette Daniel | 28 June, 2018, 09:15

"Even in her own lifetime Wilder apologized for her thoughtlessness and amended a line in Little House on the Prairie that said Kansas had 'no people, only Indians.' It now reads 'no settlers, only Indians'".

Laura Ingalls Wilder has always been a prominent author in children's literature thanks to her well-known and -loved series Little House on the Prairie, but conflict has arisen in association with her books' offensive depiction of Native Americans.

"Although Wilder's work holds a significant place in the history of children's literature and continues to be read today, ALSC has had to grapple with the inconsistency between Wilder's legacy and its core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness through an award that bears Wilder's name", the ALA said. "Only Indians lived there", The Washington Post reported.

Wilder was given the first award in 1954, and E. B. White and Dr. Seuss are two other famous recipients of the Wilder Award.

Now, after years of complaints, the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, says it voted Saturday to strip Wilder's name from the award.

The decision to remove her name from the award was the result of years of charges that Wilder's depictions of Native Americans and African-Americans are racist.

"While the answer to racism is not to impose purity retroactively or to disappear titles from shelves, no 8-year-old Dakota child should have to listen to an uncritical reading of Little House on the Prairie".


The Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association released a statement defending Wilder's work. Previously, the organization had noted the "anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments" in Wilder's writing.

She also wrote that her mother believed that "the only good Indian was a dead Indian".

MAYER: Lindsay says the ALSC spent months surveying librarians and readers on their feelings about Wilder and that most of her membership supports the move, although some have struggled with it.

"Whether we love Wilder or hate her, we should know her", she wrote.

Still, Caroline Fraser, author of Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, argued that the racial insensitivity in Wilder's book shouldn't mean that children shouldn't read it.

"Each generation revises the literary canon".

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