Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name removed from children’s book award

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Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the famed Little House on the Prairie books, has had her name removed from a prestigious children's book award over concerns of her depictions of black and Indigenous Americans.

Citing "anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments in her work", the association declared that Wilder's literary legacy "includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC's core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness".

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. "Only Indians lived there".

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"Yet perceptions matter, along with the very real pain associated with her works for some, and year after year ALSC gives the impression of upholding Wilder's works through an award that bears her name". It said, "The award was created in 1954 when an understanding of the message it sends to people of color, specifically American Indians and those of African descent, was not recognized".

Effectively, the name of the prize was changed from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children's Literature Legacy Award. Lindsay says the change isn't meant to erase Wilder.

Yes, "Little House On The Prairie" is a classic beloved by millions. In 1952, she apologized amid criticism for the opening sentences of "Little House on the Prairie", which state, "there were no people". But let's just take a minute to remember the very bad way Wilder described the Native Americans her family encountered.

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A letter from the ALSC board noted the "complexity" of the issue and "the emotion surrounding it", and also acknowledged Wilder's books "have been deeply painful to many readers". The racial content in her books "should be discussed in our modern perspective and addressed directly", the group said, "rather than hidden or avoided".

Perhaps this worldview could be more easily dismissed if it were entirely fictional, but the "Little House" books are semi-autobiographical, and recount Wilder's own childhood growing up on the Great Plains.

"We believe it is important to recognize Wilder's contributions to literacy, libraries, and culture, even as her works continue to spark discussion and scholarly debate", the LIWLRA continued.

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