Laura Ingalls Wilder's named removed from award amid examination of dated attitudes

28 June, 2018, 09:14 | Author: Kristine Mills
  • Controversy The board voted unanimously to remove Wilder's name at their annual meeting over the weekend due to her anti-black and anti Native writings

"Even in her own lifetime Wilder apologized for her thoughtlessness and amended a line in Little House on the Prairie that said Kansas had 'no people, only Indians.' It now reads 'no settlers, only Indians'".

"The ALSC stated though, that her books "[include] expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC's core values" based on Wilder's portrayal of black people and Native Americans. Most notably, the repeated injection of the racist adage, "The only good Indian is a dead Indian", has been sharply criticized.

An iconic author's name has been stripped from a prestigious literary award because of themes some are describing as racially offensive. 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".

The association chose to remove Wilder's name from the award because her works include "expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC's core values".

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"While we are committed to preserving access to Wilder's work for readers, we must also consider if her legacy today does justice to this particular award for lifetime achievement, given by an organisation committed to all children".

A number of commentators disagreed with the change, with one, history and economics author Lori Ann LaRocco, saying Wilder "inspired me to be an author and to be fearless".

In "Little House on the Prairie", Wilder wrote, "Their Faces were bold and fierce and awful". But let's just take a minute to remember the very bad way Wilder described the Native Americans her family encountered. 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. As the critic Ann Romines wrote, "Indians become a code for everything that seems to threaten the settled, white life she wants for her daughters". While numerous Little House books became widely read, critics said her work included many stereotypical and reductive depictions of Native Americans and people of color. The racial content in her books "should be discussed in our modern perspective and addressed directly", the group said, "rather than hidden or avoided".

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