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.