Published: Thu, June 28, 2018
Life&Culture | By Ben Goodman

Ingalls Wilder dropped from US book prize over racism

Ingalls Wilder dropped from US book prize over racism

"Only Indians lived there", implied that Native Americans were not people-in response, the publisher then changed "people" to "settlers".

The board went on to say that Wilder's written works will continue to be published, but added that her "legacy is complex" and "not universally embraced".

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.

A decades-old controversy over the depiction of Native Americans and African-Americans in the classic Little House on the Prairie books has resulted in the name of its author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, being removed from an award.

Harper's in 1953 chose to change "people" to "settlers" but other criticisms focused on her depictions of Native Americans and some African Americans.

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

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The Association for Library Service to Children agreed to rename the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award the "Children's Literature Legacy Award", explaining that the early-to-mid 20th century author's works included "expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC's core values".

The editor at Harper's who received the reader's complaint wrote back saying it was "unbelievable" to her that not a single person at Harper's ever noticed, for almost 20 years, that the sentence appeared to imply that Native Americans were not people, according to a 2007 biography of Wilder by Pamela Smith Hill.

The books inspired the hugely popular 1974-1983 television series Little House on the Prairie starring Melissa Gilbert. The tales are so ingrained in the traditions of children's literature that it may be easy to forget or overlook that Wilder, who wrote the books in the 1930s and 40s, depicts Native Americans as inhuman and inconsequential. 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.

"I absolutely would (read the books again)", Miller said.

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.

"Each generation revises the literary canon", she wrote. Fraser stated that Wilder's work "vividly, unforgettably ... still tells truths about white settlement, homesteading and the violent appropriation of Indian land and culture".

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