Ingalls Wilder dropped from US book prize over racism

Big name Former first lady Michelle Obama opened the annual ALA conference with a speech last week

Big name Former first lady Michelle Obama opened the annual ALA conference with a speech last week

Laura Ingalls Wilder's name will be removed from a major award because of how the "Little House on the Prairie" author portrayed minorities in her novels, the children's division of the American Library Association voted Saturday. "Only Indians lived there", implied that Native Americans were not people-in response, the publisher then changed "people" to "settlers". 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".

A huge award for children's literature will no longer be called The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award.

"Changing the name of the award should not be viewed as an attempt to censor, limit, or deter access to Wilder's books and materials, but rather as an effort to align the award's title with ALSC's core values", the association said.

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Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957) as a schoolteacher, 1887.

It was followed by Little House on the Prairie in 1935, On the Banks of Plum Creek in 1937 and By the Shores of Silver Lake in 1939. But she also says your average 8-year-old shouldn't have to read the "Little House" books without some background. 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. More than once, her neighbors repeat that infamous slur, the only good Indian is a dead Indian.

Some applaud the ALSC for taking measures to correct oppressive outdated racial attitudes, but other readers and critics argue that Wilder certainly had no ill intent and that her books - like all art, were merely a reflection of the social mores of their times.

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"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.

"Each generation revises the literary canon", she wrote.

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. The characters of "Pa" and "Ma" are frequently furious and fearful of Indians, which while realistic to a point, certainly doesn't tell the entire story of history.

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