“Little House on the Prairie” Author’s Name Removed from Book Award

"Little House on the Prairie" Author's Name Removed from Book Award Book Culture

Following several years of quiet debate, a division of the American Library Association has announced that it will be changing the name of its children book award.

From The Guardian:

The board of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) made the unanimous decision to change the name on Saturday, at a meeting in New Orleans. The name of the prize was changed from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.

The association said Wilder “includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values”.

The first award was given to Wilder in 1954. The ALSC said Wilder’s work continued to be published and read but her “legacy is complex” and “not universally embraced”.

Wilder was born in 1867 and died in 1957. She is best known for her eight Little House on the Prairie novels, about pioneer life in the American West, which were published between 1932 and 1943.

Wilder is not the first to be removed from an award due to the author's racism; the World Fantasy Award used to feature a bust of H P Lovecraft before it was changed in 2015. It was widely known that Lovecraft was racist, but the prize was only changed four years after the award was won by Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor, who only learned of Lovecraft's racism as a result of her win, and the year after Somali-American Sofia Samatar won.

Scholars have been discussing the racism in Laura Ingalls Wilder's books for decades, but it was only in the last few years that the issue started getting widespread attention for the racist attitudes toward Native Americans as well as the racist cultural references toward African Americans.

It was only a matter of time before her name was removed from the award, and frankly, I am surprised those books are still being used in schools - they amount to cultural propaganda and should not be taught to impressionable minds. They present an idealized version of a period of American history that glosses over the many darker aspects of that period, so much so that the racism is only the first problem with the books.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

21 Comments

  1. Bill Peschel24 June, 2018

    Don’t worry Nate, schools these days are too busy teaching students what to think to worry about literacy and math.

    Reply
  2. Andy24 June, 2018

    Nate, typo in the headline. *Prairie

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder24 June, 2018

      fixed it, thanks!

      Reply
  3. Mike Cane24 June, 2018

    “cultural propaganda” ?!!?

    Note that I haven’t read the books but that term, I can’t even.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder24 June, 2018

      okay, “history books”

      Reply
  4. Xavier Basora24 June, 2018

    Wow. No context. No desire to put in her times. Nope straight up rasssssicst who didn’t write about the native America, crippled gender fluid experience but about white people living in the frontier.
    And now her award has been neutered by a generic, insipid name that truly inspires. Yup a name that’s differentiated from the other generically forgettable named awards.

    xavier

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder24 June, 2018

      We still have racists in 2018. According to your logic, we should excuse them because they are from this era.

      Yeah, no.

      Reply
  5. Harmon24 June, 2018

    Yep. Teach children to think by making sure they read only approved pablum.

    Reply
  6. Harmon24 June, 2018

    But it is useful to know the name of an “award” that is based on virtue signalling rather than literary merit.

    Reply
  7. English Teacher25 June, 2018

    Damn idiots….I’m so sick of this crap. It was history and the way things were then. Why don’t we just wipe out all historical documentation of Gladiator slaves, ancient Greek and Roman culture, Hebrew persecution, which lasted thousands of years, and any other historical data we currently find politically incorrect. It is disgusting at this point, when liberal extremists affect our literature and historical legacy. Let’s not forget how they “re-wrote” Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer to remove “offensive” words. Hey, let’s re-write the Bible while we’re at it…there will be 3 pages left after all the politically incorrect passages are removed. So freaking stupid. Laura Ingalls Wilder depicted a critical part of American history. Pathetic.

    Reply
  8. Xavier Basora25 June, 2018

    Nate,
    We shouldn’t excuse Laura Ingalls’s unenlightened views about race at all. The big difference is she had a prejudice, a very foolish one, that was sadly typical of the time she lived in. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way even if it’s still quite imperfect
    But she wasn’t some proto nazi/bolshevik who inspired Hitler and Stalin. And that’s what the Library Service to Children has implied.
    That’s what I object to.

    xavier

    Reply
  9. Laura25 June, 2018

    Here is an excellent article by a Wilder biographer who believes the name change is fine, but the books should be studied in context of our history….and I think she has a balanced perspective…https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/yes-little-house-on-the-prairie-is-racially-insensitive–but-we-should-still-read-it/2018/03/12/8e021422-1e40-11e8-9de1-147dd2df3829_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.5809a11c2ade

    Reply
  10. Ingalls fan25 June, 2018

    Your removing history and I pray that Lara ‘s family should demand to keep
    The name on ! its not right to remove it
    Michel Landon would be sad
    Would you remove his name off the tv series witch he made
    So many kids will protest aginst this
    First they tried to change her books in the 1800’s now your doing it again
    If she was alive she would sue you all
    You should honor her memory

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder25 June, 2018

      Her books were,written and published in the 1930s.

      She was racist even at that time. It wasn’t “okay” back then. I guarantee you that the people experiencing the prejudice and slurs and vitriol hurled at them by her family and their contemporaries were not like “ehh it’s cool, bro, that’s just the times.”

      from: https://twitter.com/shgmclicious/status/1011406638694195201

      Reply
  11. Pat Chandler25 June, 2018

    Laura was born February 7th 1867.Two years after the civil warand died February 10th 1957,3days after her 90th birthday!The wording and language was of her time,not ours!Hers was a pioneer life when Indian attacks on settlers was common!We can’t say she is discriminating, when she wrote in the language of her time!

    Reply
  12. tired26 June, 2018

    ” I am surprised those books are still being used in schools”

    Where did you get this from? I don’t think that Little House on the Prairie is taught in schools.

    Reply
  13. tired26 June, 2018

    From the comments here you would think that the Guardian reported on a book burning instead of changing the name of an award.

    Reply
  14. sj5 July, 2018

    it’s one thing to locate a book and its author within a historical context. it’s another to offer an award explicitly elevating an author as a model in the present day. let’s maybe not get so upset when current, modern institutions attempt small gestures to demonstrate current, modern values.
    or maybe the readers of this blog also support maintaining confederate monuments in town squares and cheering sports teams with names and mascots that mock and insult marginalized groups.
    put your nostalgia in check and consider the implications.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder5 July, 2018

      Actually, a lot of people who complained about this change also argue against tearing down the Confederate statues. Seriously, I discovered this when I got into a discussion over on The Passive Voice.

      Reply
  15. azurelle27 July, 2018

    Those who do not learn their history are doomed to repeat it. These books are considered semi-autobiographical, no one has the right to condemn the author for the life she lived or make her work less-than because of content as seen through “modern” eyes. Her life experience does not weaken her writing skill and story telling abilities. If you refuse to read her work or learn about that period of time you are ignoring American history and are therefore doomed to repeat it. The only thing more ignorant than a person who can’t read is a person who refuses to read.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder27 July, 2018

      I seriously doubt anyone is going to repeat the history that she left out of those books.

      Reply

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