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Book award drops Laura Ingalls Wilder's name over her lack of 'inclusiveness'

28 June 2018

"Only Indians lived there".

"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". Wilder was presented the first award in 1954, after which it was named for her and presented every five years between 1960 and 1980, every three years between 1980 and 2001, every two years between 2001 and 2015 and annually since then.

Director of Chicago's American Indian Center, Heather Miller, said she read the books during childhood, and didn't see her ethnicity reflected in the stories. Her "Little House on the Prairie series" is world-renowned for its portrayal of the struggles of prairie life in North America in the 1800's.

"Although Wilder's work holds a significant place in the history of children's literature and continues to be read today, ALSC has had to grapple with the inconsistency between Wilder's legacy and its core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness through an award that bears Wilder's name", the ALA said.

The Association for Library Service to Children gives out the "Laura Ingalls Wilder Award" yearly to authors whose work has made a lasting impact on the world of children's literature.

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Yet Harper's decision in 1953 to change "people" to "settlers" in the offending sentence did little to quell the critics in later decades, who began describing Wilder's depictions of Native Americans and some African Americans - and her storylines evoking white settlers' manifest-destiny beliefs - as racist.

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The books inspired the hugely popular 1974-1983 television series Little House on the Prairie starring Melissa Gilbert. At the forefront of the argument is her handling of black and Native American characters, both in namecalling and characterization.

On Saturday, a division of the American Library Association voted to remove Wilder's name from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal. Previously, the organization had noted the "anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments" in Wilder's writing.

"I absolutely would (read the books again)", Miller said. Fraser stated that Wilder's work "vividly, unforgettably ... still tells truths about white settlement, homesteading and the violent appropriation of Indian land and culture".

Book award drops Laura Ingalls Wilder's name over her lack of 'inclusiveness'