Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Name Removed From Book Award Due To Her Portrayal Of Native Americans
Laura Ingalls Wilder is beloved by many as the author of Little House on the Prairie and her other autobiographical Little House children’s novels, but like many literature classics of earlier eras, they feature stereotypical depictions of certain peoples that are hard to defend in a modern context. In Wilder’s case, her portrayal of Native Americans is less than ideal, and that has now led to a big change regarding a book award named after her.
After months of deliberation, the Association for Library Service to Children has decided to rechristen the “Laura Ingalls Wilder Award” the “Children’s Literature Legacy Award.” The honor is given annually to authors whose work has made a lasting impact on children’s literature.
Examples of offensive material in the Little House books include Wilder’s mother saying, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” and her father referring to one Indian as “no common trash” because “that was French he spoke.”
The ALSC’s official statement regarding the decision says, “Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books have been and will continue to be deeply meaningful to many readers. 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.”
Anticipating potential accusation of censorship, the statement also notes, “Changing the name of the award should not be viewed as an attempt to censor, limit, or deter access to Wilder’s books and materials, but rather as an effort to align the award’s title with ALSC’s core values. This change should not be viewed as a call for readers to change their personal relationship with or feelings about Wilder’s books.”