Laura Ingalls Wilder's name removed from book award over racism concerns

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Laura Ingalls Wilder has always been a prominent author in children's literature thanks to her well-known and -loved series Little House on the Prairie, but conflict has arisen in association with her books' offensive depiction of Native Americans.

The Association for Library Service to Children's board made the unanimous decision Saturday at a meeting in New Orleans.

Wilder is best known for her "Little House on the Prairie" novels, which the ALSC has stated "includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC's core values" based on Wilder's portrayal of black people and Native Americans. Because Wilder used her actual family's name in the stories, some have taken the book for historical fact. Other winners are E.B. White, the author of "Charlotte's Web" and Theodor Seuss Geisel, author of the Dr Seuss books.

While acknowledging the series' popularity and its significant place in the history of children's literature, the ALSC board said that Wilder's characterizations of minorities have hurt many people. Someone first complained back in 1952. "Only Indians lived there", implied that Native Americans were not people-in response, the publisher then changed "people" to "settlers".

An editor at Harper's made a decision to change the word "people" to "settlers" in 1953, though that did little to silence critics who characterized such wording as racist, according to The Washington Post.

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Wilder was born in 1867 in Wisconsin, becoming a school teacher and moving to Missouri with her husband in 1894, dying at the age of 90 in 1957.

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.

In a March Washington Post column, Caroline Fraser, who wrote Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, argued for continuing support and reading of the Little House books.

In its letter to the ALSC, the LIWLRA noted that "no human is untarnished", and stressed that Wilder deserves continued recognition for supporting libraries and educational initiatives across America, and for representing "the ability of an individual to not only overcome a hard past and upbringing, but also to tell the story of those obstacles so that future generations may grow and learn".