Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name removed from book award for her denigration of Native Americans

Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957) is familiar to many Americans as the author of the Little House on the Prairie series of children’s books, which became a highly-watched television show. Now I haven’t read her books or watched the show, but, at least based on the Washington Post story below, I think I can comment on the recent news about her. To wit: the Association for Library Service to Children, a part of the American Library Association, has now decided to strip Wilder’s name from a prize given to “authors or illustrators who have made significant and lasting contribution to children’s literature.”

Click on the screenshot to read the story:

You can guess why her name has been deep-sixed (the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award is now the Children’s Literature Legacy Award). It is, as often happens these days, because her name is associated with racism. In her case, it’s the anti-Native American sentiments expressed in her book. As the Post notes:

In its decision to remove Wilder’s name from the award, the library association had cited “anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments in her work” when it announced the review of Wilder’s award in February. The award, reserved for authors or illustrators who have made “significant and lasting contribution to children’s literature,” will no longer be called the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. It’s now the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.

“This decision was made in consideration of the fact that Wilder’s legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness,” the association said in a statement on its website.

The thing is, at least according to the Post’s article, those sentiments are ones expressed by the white settlers on the prairie who had to deal with Native Americans, and it’s not clear whether Wilders herself was a racist. Here, for example, are some of the statements quoted by the Post as being reasons for stripping Wilder’s name from the award. (Except for the comment labeled “JAC in the first post, the rest of the wording is from the paper):

  • JAC: An original complaint in 1952, which resulted in the publisher (Harper’s) changing the word “people” to settlers:

The reader pointed specifically to the book’s opening chapter, “Going West.” The 1935 tale of a pioneering family seeking unvarnished, unoccupied land opens with a character named Pa, modeled after Wilder’s own father, who tells of his desire to go “where the wild animals lived without being afraid.” Where “the land was level, and there were no trees.”

And where “there were no people. Only Indians lived there.”

  • The book includes multiple statements from characters saying, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” In 1998, an 8-year-old girl on the Upper Sioux Reservation was so disturbed after hearing her teacher read the statement aloud in class that she went home crying, leading her mother to unsuccessfully petition the school district to ban the book from its curriculum.

 

  • Elsewhere in the book, Osage tribe members are sometimes depicted as animalistic, notes the critic Philip Heldrich: In one scene, Wilder describes them as wearing a “leather thong” with “the furry skin of a small animal” hanging down in front, making “harsh sounds” and having “bold and fierce” faces with “black eyes.” Although Laura’s father espouses a more tolerant view of Native Americans, his description of a “good Indian” is one who is “no common trash.”

 

  • The character who is Laura Ingalls’s mother, Caroline Ingalls, is not subtle in her hatred of Native Americans, saying repeatedly that she doesn’t like them before she has even encountered them. 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.”

 

  • In addition, in another scene, Wilder depicts white men wearing blackface for the entertainment of others — including her father.

Now if you read all of these, you’ll see that except for the statement “there were no people. . . only Indians”, which might indeed reflect Wilder’s dehumanization of Native Americans, most of the rest of the statements are sentiments expressed by the settlers, who could easily have hated and dehumanized Native Americans because they were effectively at war. This is not of course to say those sentiments were justified, but that an accurate portrayal of settlers’ lives may well have shown them to be bigots who thought of the Native Americans as savages.

I suspect that Wilder did in fact share these sentiments, based on the “no people” statement, but even she was a product of her time, and in that time most white settlers and many Americans were racists towards Indians and blacks.  What bothers me is not so much the stripping of Wilder’s name from the award, but the implicit attitude that we should disown and call out any literature in which pre-modern morality is espoused. And if you do that, then you have to stop paying homage to any author who ever expressed racist sentiments or made statements that hurt the feelings of any modern Americans. There goes Mark Twain, Thomas Wolfe, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Rudyard Kipling, Walt Whitman. . . . the list goes on forever. The fact is that just a century ago, virtually all white Americans were racists, and most men misogynists. We’ve moved on, as Steven Pinker would say, but we can only judge that by looking at the past. These books give us a window into that past.

And if there are these kinds of bigoted statements in books, can’t they be used as “teaching moments” rather than present children with a sanitized canon of books in which bigotry and hatred and “othering” is never mentioned? “Huckleberry Finn” has repeatedly been removed from curricula for using the word “nigger,” as has “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Those are books worth reading, and I’m absolutely sure they can be taught with sensitivity, with room for discussion about the bigotry. I haven’t read Wilder’s books, but there is something about them that has appealed to generations of children. Must we now always point out that the author and the books are racist, just to reinforce our own feelings of being virtuous?

Here’s the statement of the American Library Association, which gave this year’s renamed prize to Jacqueline Woodson, author of Brown Girl DreamingThey repeatedly make clear, here and elsewhere, that they are not advocating censorship, and I will take their word for it. But they are still advocating a misguided judging of classic literature by the ideological-purity standards of today. Yes, we’ve moved on, and we should show our children that we have, but in the process we should remember the milieu in which those books were written.

Here’s the ALS and ALSC’s statement; note the bit I’ve put in bold. Yes, it’s not censorship, but I still have a queasy feeling that there’s a bit of hypocrisy here. After all, the name of the award was changed because the books were judged to be ideologically unacceptable.

Statement of the American Library Association and the Association for Library Service to Children:

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.

“Wilder’s books are a product of her life experiences and perspective as a settler in America’s 1800s. Her works reflect dated cultural attitudes toward Indigenous people and people of color that contradict modern acceptance, celebration, and understanding of diverse communities.

“ALSC works within the context of our society as a whole, where the conversations taking place inform our work and help us articulate our core values and support of diverse populations.

“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. Updating the award’s name should not be construed as censorship, as we are not demanding that anyone stop reading Wilder’s books, talking about them, or making them available to children. We hope adults think critically about Wilder’s books and the discussions that can take place around them.

“It also should be noted that changing the name of the ALSC award for significant and lasting contribution to children’s literature has no reflection on past winners or their achievements, and does not negate the honor they have received for making a ‘significant and lasting contribution to literature for children.’

“This decision was made after much consideration and fact-finding. It is one that we believe serves the best interests of ALSC and all of those they serve, not only now, in 2018, but also in the long-term.”

h/t: Jim

69 Comments

  1. barube
    Posted June 26, 2018 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    The sjw’s will be coming for Mark Twain next! This is so messed up.

    • Posted June 26, 2018 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      Will they go after Zane Grey for his decidedly unflattering depictions of Mormons? Of course not! Cuz mormons are not one of the SJW-approved identity groups.

  2. DrBrydon
    Posted June 26, 2018 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    It just strikes me as being a knee-jerk reaction. I am no longer a reader of children’s books (RIP Richard Scarry), and didn’t pay attention to awards when I was. But why was the award named for Ingalls Wilder in the first place? It implies she was an important contributor to the genre. Do these comments outway the value of her contribution? I can’t say, but the zealots these days seem to think that any politically incorrect utterance, regardless of context, is utterly damning.

    • Posted June 26, 2018 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      I visited Wikipedia, because I had no idea who Richard Scarry was (English is not my 1st language). See what I found there:

      “Books by Richard Scarry changed over the course of their several editions, often to make them conform to changing social values.

      His Best Word Book Ever, which first appeared in 1963, was issued in 1980 as a “new revised edition” which altered images and text to remove material which could be perceived as offensive due to gender, racial, or religious misconceptions…”

      • DrBrydon
        Posted June 26, 2018 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        I still have my originals. 🙂

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted June 26, 2018 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

          The Thought Police will be knocking on your door with a confiscation order any time now…

          cr

  3. Posted June 26, 2018 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    “The fact is that just a century ago, virtually all white Americans were racists, and most men misogynists.”

    I hate to be pedantic, but when SJWs are playing fast & loose with terminology, it’s important that we adopt precision.

    While it’s fair to presume that most men a century ago held views about women we’d today consider ‘sexist’, they surely did not harbor a deep-seated, pathological hatred of all women as a class (a.k.a., ‘misogyny’.)

  4. Ann German
    Posted June 26, 2018 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    I read every one of her books voraciously in the 50’s. If I had become a writer, instead of a lawyer, it would have been because of her and Alcott. I heard quite a bit of racist jargon growing up in Montana, but I was open to learning about it, being critical of it and eschewing it. I think the better approach would be to bring informed critiques to this older art, but to realistically acknowledge that it was a different time with different mores.

  5. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 26, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Well, I suppose as long as the books are still being read, this is more or less OK.

    Ingalls was probably chosen due to how prolific and lasting her output was, and her being American. (Lucy Maude Montgomery was Canadian- Frances Hodgson Burnett was British, etc.) Ingall’s work was just stories about growing up, not fantasy.

    Many other possible choices will be controversial among conservatives, or don’t have enough stuff.
    Most folks agree that Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” is a masterpiece, but that it’s many sequels are poor, while the many “Little House” books are equally good but still racist.
    Madeleine L’Engle suffers from a similar problem; “A Wrinkle in Time” remains a huge hit, but her other works are largely forgotten.

    However, naming an award after E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, Trumpet of the Swan) strikes me as an idea. Much more recent than Wilder, and only 3 children’s books, but all 3 are masterful.

    =-=-=

    By far and away the most racist work of children’s literature ever is Doctor Dolittle, and it was made into a movie starring Eddie Murphy!!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 26, 2018 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      One Man’s Meat would be objectionable to vegans, so E.B. White’s out.

      • freiner
        Posted June 26, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        Besides, he’s quintessentially White.

  6. John Black
    Posted June 26, 2018 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I’m surprised we haven’t abjured the founding fathers of the US yet. Surely racists, some were slave-owners, and women were treated like chattel in their time. Surely the ideals of the constitution cannot be upheld when we remember what its authors were like?

    Sigh…

    You can have great moral teachings even from imperfect individuals. Look at Martin Luther King, Jr. Are we going to renounce his wisdom because of his sexual misbehavior and various plagiarisms?

    If we can celebrate only the products of perfect human beings, the world will be a dour and gloomy stage.

    • BJ
      Posted June 26, 2018 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      What I find fascinating about the criticism levied at European colonial nations that had slavery is not the criticism itself — clearly warranted — but the attitude that this makes these countries somehow more reprehensible than any others (and whites as a whole more reprehensible than any other people). History does not begin and end with white European nations doing bad things. In those times, every powerful nation in the world tried to be an empire. Slavery was in nearly every place across the globe. In fact, the only places that systematically tried to end slavery (and succeeded, as we can see today) were these European nations that are today criticized for all the ills of the world. They were
      even able to end slavery in their colonies across the globe, though they were not always successful in keeping it eradicated due to their distance and lack of control (see: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/06/lolas-story/524490/ ). Because of that history of eradicating slavery, slavery continues to exist only in the places where these nations couldn’t stamp it out: the Middle East, Africa, Asia.

      It was the British Empire that first tried to end slavery across the world, using its navy and immense economic, physical, and manpower resources to sail the globe stopping and, if necessary, destroying slavers and their ships.

      • nicky
        Posted June 27, 2018 at 1:12 am | Permalink

        Indeed BJ, “History does not begin and end with white European nations doing bad things”, a pertinent point.
        Can we expect that focusing on this ‘white history’ will be considered insensitive and reprehensible in a few decades? I would not be surprised, why would ‘minorities’ be deprived of the right to have their own ‘baddies’?
        😁

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 26, 2018 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I have no regard for the opinions of any modern person today who judges past history and the people in it this way. It makes no sense and I suppose how they regard us 150 years from now will also be meaningless. History in general must be a complete waste of time for these critics.

  8. yazikus
    Posted June 26, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I loved the books as a kid, especially Farmer Boy (for its descriptions of food). I don’t doubt that she held racist views, and I don’t think the books should be censored. We should be thoughtful about how we address the material with younger kids, but I think older ones can figure it out. She was a person of her time, and the settlers were not keen on the native people whose land they were trying to settle.

    I did start reading some Rudyard Kipling to kiddo a few years ago, and paused it when I realized I wasn’t sure how I wanted to handle some of his more racist bits. Kiddo was quite young. We’ll get back to it one of these days.

  9. darrelle
    Posted June 26, 2018 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Nothing to do with this issue, but as a kid the Little House on the Prairie TV show was watched regularly in our house and I always found the show kind of creepy. Felt the same way about The Waltons too.

    Huh. Just looked up The Waltons to verify the correct title and this is the 1st sentence that Google Search returned on it.

    blockquote>“The life of a Depression-era family in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains is the subject of this wholesome series.”

    “Wholesome” series? If that ain’t creepy I don’t know what is.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted June 26, 2018 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      Anything that openly flags/signals how wholesome it is trying to be is a tad suspicious, and will always be at least a bit saccharine. (It’s one of several problems with the singing of Pat Boone.)

      The “Anne of Green Gables” books and movies and “Little Women” and “The Secret Garden” are wholesome without trying to signal how wholesome they are, and all the better for being a tad gritty here and there. They are fairly clean, but never artificially sanitized.

      However, A lot of Hallmark movies, and early Spielberg movies suffer. And most Shirley Temple movies are really bizarre!! Aach!!

      • darrelle
        Posted June 26, 2018 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        You haven’t lived yet if you’ve never heard Pat’s In A Metal Mood album. Or, better yet, watched some of the music videos.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted June 26, 2018 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

          Oh my. I googled that. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to listen.

          • darrelle
            Posted June 26, 2018 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

            🙂

            I double-dog-dare ya.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted June 26, 2018 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

              Hahaha maybe I will send it to my metal head friend.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted June 26, 2018 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

              OMG to annoy my friend and send a link I accidentally heard some of Panama and it’s hilarious!!

              • darrelle
                Posted June 26, 2018 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

                No permanent damage I hope!

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted June 26, 2018 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

                No it’s actually pretty funny. Didn’t make me crazy or anything.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 26, 2018 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Me too – all the religion and righteousness bothered me. I was a kid so I couldn’t articulate it, but it gave me that same headache-y tight skull that being forced to say the Lord’s Prayer in school gave me.

      • darrelle
        Posted June 26, 2018 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        I think that was exactly what made them seem creepy to me.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 26, 2018 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

        OMG yes! Little House on the Prairie* and The Waltons made me want to barf. And still do**. In my teen view at the time a Western was supposed to be about people shooting at each other, otherwise it was just a soap.

        * I always want to interpret that title as referring to the outside dunny.

        (**There’s a channel here that re-runs old series, some good, most of them mercifully forgotten. And they should be left to moulder in their graves rather than being resurrected like zombies. Its lineup would be an excellent antidote to anyone who wants to rabbit on about the Good Old Days of TV, and a reminder that Sturgeons Law operated then too).

        cr

    • BJ
      Posted June 26, 2018 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      Hey, yesterday’s wholesome is today’s creepy and tomorrow’s unforgivably morally repugnant. Thirty years from now (hell, more like five or ten at the rate we’re going), everything the new Puritans think is cutting edge progressive and moral will be combed for the many instances of heresy that will inevitably be found. Hopefully, we will by then have realized the folly of trying to hold art and mores of the past to the standards of the present.

      Of course, this isn’t to say that these subjects should not be analyzed, but merely that the conclusion of such analyses should not affect how we view the stature of these authors or the importance and worthwhile nature of their art and personhood, and their standing as important figures to still be respected and honored. Because, at some point, the regressives will succeed with their entry ism into many other cultural institutions, and Mark Twain will eventually also suffer this treatment we’re discussing.

      • darrelle
        Posted June 27, 2018 at 7:33 am | Permalink

        Well, except that I found them creepy then when it was new, not now decades later. Although I probably would find them a bit creepy now too.

        As I said, my comment didn’t have any thing to do with the issues the OP raised. I’ve never even read any of Wilder’s books and being an avid reader since I was a kid I’d never make the mistake of equating a movie/TV show with the books they are “based” on without having experienced both.

        • BJ
          Posted June 27, 2018 at 8:53 am | Permalink

          No problem. Your comment touched off a general train of thought in my head, so it wasn’t really directed toward how you felt about the work as a kid. It was considered wholesome by most people then, but you were obviously not always in tune with the prevailing norms and wisdom of the day.

          • darrelle
            Posted June 27, 2018 at 10:16 am | Permalink

            Are you saying I was Abby Normal?

    • Posted June 26, 2018 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

      My sister and I watched Laura grow up. I found Laura a little whiny and overly naive but interesting. I think, even though I was really young, I already didn’t care for the subtle to overt Christian hubris mixed into theme.

      Like CS Lewis, when Christians write stories they can justify their moral center to include some people as people and others not so much as people.

  10. Linda Calhoun
    Posted June 26, 2018 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    I first encountered LIW in her adult focused writings. She was a regular columnist for Farm Wife magazine, and a lot of the stuff she wrote about organizing kitchen and barn space is timeless.

    So, I read the Little House books as an adult, and I also read a bunch of biographical stuff about her.

    I wasn’t particularly comfortable with her views of the Native people, but, as you point out, they were at war, and several of her encounters were scary.

    But, I was a lot more freaked out when I found out that her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, was best friends with Ayn Rand.

    L

    • BJ
      Posted June 26, 2018 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      “But, I was a lot more freaked out when I found out that her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, was best friends with Ayn Rand.”

      I never subscribe to the idea that friendships reflect in any way on those who have them, unless they’re friends with genocidal people (or the like).

      Jon Stewart is friends with Bill O’Reilly, and Bill Maher is friends with Ann Coulter. Often, ideological opponents make great friends, if they’re the kinds of people who can respect each others’ views and discuss them civilly. In fact, a great friendship can often revolve around intellectual disagreement, as the conversations enrich one’s life and help the friendship grow by engendering a healthy respect for the opponent.

      Buckley and Mailer. Buckley and Galbraith. Hitchens and many who disagreed with him. Many other relationships like this.

      Frankly, it is often the sign of great minds that they can vehemently disagree with someone and not only remain friends with that opponent, but remain friends while regularly engaging in debate. (Note: I think these friendships are different from those between Stewart and O’Reilly, or Maher and Coulter. Those relationships seemed based more on the recognition that they are all entertainers, rather than serious intellectuals who like to meet and debate deep philosophical, ethical, and political ideas through the night).

      “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted June 26, 2018 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

        Hell, Antonin Scalia and The Notorious RBG were fast and famous friends — which I’ve always viewed as Nino’s one great redeeming quality. 🙂

        • BJ
          Posted June 26, 2018 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

          Hell yeah! How could I forget to include that one?!? Scalia must have been one helll of a fun and challenging sparring partner for The Notorious RBG (I love that and I’m stealing it) to enjoy his company so much.

          The greatest minds enjoy and respect a challenge, often above most else.

        • BJ
          Posted June 26, 2018 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

          By the way, Ken, what did you think of those proposed ABA rules to which I alerted you some days ago?

  11. BJ
    Posted June 26, 2018 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    The purges continue.

    Next, we’ll be removing the entire existence of the “impure” from records and photoshopping them out of pictures: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_of_images_in_the_Soviet_Union#Censorship_of_historical_photographs

    • DrBrydon
      Posted June 26, 2018 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      Have you seen The Death of Stalin, yet? You’ll love the end credits.

      • BJ
        Posted June 26, 2018 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        I have not, but thank you for alerting me to it. I will certainly check it out.

      • BJ
        Posted June 26, 2018 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

        I just looked it up. It’s the new Iannucci film! I’ll be ordering it on disc from Amazon immediately, as I’m sure I’ll want to own it on my shelf.

  12. Jair
    Posted June 26, 2018 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    This is unfortunate. Wilder’s books were some of the first I can ever remember reading and they are a treasure. I have no doubt that Wilder held some prejudiced views, as did everyone in her time. But are we going to erase the names of anyone who was born before 1900? I have no problem with removing monuments to Confederate leaders and others who actively fought for the promulgation of slavery and other evils. But we don’t have to tar the name of every ordinary, or extraordinary, American who may have had some mistaken positions common to their time.

    Regarding that particular sentence – Wilder did not mean to imply that Indians were not people. She herself said as much, writing:

    “Your letter came this morning… you are perfectly right about the fault in Little House on the Prairie and have my permission to make the correction as you suggest. It was a stupid blunder of mine. Of course Indians are people and I did not intend to imply they were not.”

    Quote taken from National Review, which has a good discussion:

    https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/06/laura-ingalls-wilder-alsc-award-removal/

    • Kiwi Dave
      Posted June 26, 2018 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for that link – it is a good discussion and underlines the unwisdom of squeezing older authors into modern, simplistic, Procrustean moral categories on the basis of partial evidence.

      It made me think of Kipling, widely criticised as a jingoistic racist apologist for imperialism, yet also the author of Recessional and Gunga Din.

      And why do some moderns want to ban Huckleberry Finn because it uses ‘nigger’ when the real object of scorn, if my half-century recollection of the book is correct, is white southern society, depicted as gullible, vain, ignorant, violent, deceitful?

      • Posted June 27, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        On HF: I think some of it might be a form of intellectual laziness. *Explaining* what is going on in a novel takes work, after all.

        (This is a guess.)

        There are, of course, also outright authoritarians who just like any excuse.

  13. Posted June 26, 2018 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    There is a difference between changing the name of an award and removing an authors books from the canon. Maybe part of the reasoning behind changing the name have to do with the issues of giving the “Laura inglês wilder” award to a writer whose ancestors are “dehumanized,” as the OP writes, in LIW’s books. Just a thought…

    • BJ
      Posted June 26, 2018 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      The problem is that her name is on the award for her contributions to the award subject’s quality and propagation. Even if every one of her works no longer stand the test of regressives, that’s not why the award is named after her.

      Plus, the question of whether or not these people who want to remove her name are actually right is still very much questionable. Giving this kind of power to offense-taking isn’t a great precedent to set, though, regrettably, it seems that we have already largely ceded that power.

      • Posted June 26, 2018 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

        Just like you and the OP, i disagree with the idea that we should disown … any literature in which pre-modern morality is espoused.” However, I do think the “calling out” aspect is important, because as a teacher I think that is a part of teaching critical literacy. offended is not a reason to discredit the value of a piece of literature. Anyone can take offense at anything. I do think that we should maintain our right to speak up when we feel offended, but the speaking up does not necessarily justify a response.

        • BJ
          Posted June 26, 2018 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

          Agreed. Civil debate and expression/exchange of views should always be encouraged!

          Of course, what’s happening here is the exact opposite, but we agree on that 🙂

          • Posted June 26, 2018 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

            My goodness sorry about that garbled comment…I shouldn’t try to write stuff on the subway! I guess you kind of got the gist of what I was trying to say. I do want to add though that I don’t think that this was necessarily an example of an institution reacting to a group that was offended; rather, I think it was an attempt to be inclusive. Although some do not appreciate the change, others will see it as a sort of olive branch, which I do not think is a bad idea at all.

            • BJ
              Posted June 26, 2018 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

              I guess it’s hard to tell in the current environment. Based on prior incidents and the current environment surrounding industries and the hobby and arts cultures, I’m more inclined to see things like this as a reaction to inevitable offense (and who knows what went on in the background discussions. I think it’s safe to assume that there were people who did express offense about the name of the award, and it might have even happened in the open as well, such as on social media or at conventions).

  14. Posted June 26, 2018 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    That Abraham Lincoln guy said some racist things too. His name will need to be expunged.

  15. eliz20108
    Posted June 26, 2018 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Delighted to read all of the comments. My views were stated.

  16. Taz
    Posted June 26, 2018 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    When I was reading about this the other day I came across another recent example of this type of thing:

    In the 1929 painting, a pallid white church stands out amid the verdant forest in an Indigenous village on Vancouver Island, with dense foliage encroaching on a thin steeple from above and a scattering of cross-marked graves from below.

    Carr exhibited the painting as Indian Church, and for nearly nine decades, the name stuck.

    But apparently that name was too insensitive to Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario, where the painting is displayed, so they renamed it “Church at Yuquot Village”.

    I think this example does rise to the level of censorship.

    Nation Post Story

    • BJ
      Posted June 26, 2018 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

      FUck, man. Changing the names of titles given by artists to their works. Not only is this just reprehensibly authoritarian and self-righteous on its face, but it goes deeper into the issue of intentionally changing an aspect of someone’s art. The title of a piece is just as much a part of the artist’s creation and intent as the paint on the canvas.

      Disgusting.

  17. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted June 26, 2018 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    I deplore this retconning of history. Have the PC censors trawled through Gulliver’s Travels yet looking for suspect references? Treasure Island? Alice in Wonderland? 1984?

    Is there any book that can’t be considered objectionable by the time it gets out of copyright? Are we going to end up with a modern version of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum?

    (Apropos of which, I’m currently re-reading Damon Runyon’s ‘Broadway’ stories. I can’t see that Runyon shows bigotry towards any ethnicity or nationality. However he does use (what I take to be) common slang terms of the time to refer to all his characters, and very colourful they are. I suspect that not one page would get by the modern PC wannabe censors).

    cr

  18. Posted June 26, 2018 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    It is all part of history. Times change.

  19. Joseph Kosiner
    Posted June 26, 2018 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    I guess the purists will be coming for literature such as the Merchant of Venice and Oliver Twist someday. I don’t like the portrayals of Fagin or Shylock (being Jewish myself) but that was the view at different times in history. It doesn’t take away form the overall quality of either work.

    • Posted June 27, 2018 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      People already do complain about Merchant of Venice and Oliver Twist – especially the former.

      This was mentioned, albeit briefly, in class when we studied the play. It was *not* mentioned when we did the latter.

  20. Wayne Y Hoskisson
    Posted June 27, 2018 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    When my children were young I read several of Wilder’s novels to them. My daughter finished the series on her own. The stories did not warp them or make them racist. My daughter later read Life Among the Paiutes: Their Wrongs and Claims by Sarah Winnemucca (1844-1891). The book describes the lives of the Paiutes in Nevada. It is a quick read. She could tell that one was nonfiction and the other fiction based on real events.

    My parents could remember the “last Indian War” as they and others called a small conflict in SE Utah. Sometimes it is called Posey’s War. There was not really a war but my mother in particular could remember being fearful of Native Americans as a child since she spent her summers in rural Utah.

    The attiude sited in dropping Wilder’s name from the award persists to this day. In 2015 at a hearing concerning the potential Bears Ears National Monument a county commissioner from the area started his comments this way, “My family were the first people to settle in this area…” I could not hear the next few words. There was a massive sigh and gasp. 1200 people were there and half were Native American.

  21. rickflick
    Posted June 27, 2018 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    Based on their reasoning for censorship, would they also have to reject the majority of novels written before the civil rights movement – including the bible? Sweet baby Jesus!

    • nicky
      Posted June 27, 2018 at 1:20 am | Permalink

      Good point, the Bible is not just bigotted, it is taken as a guide for life, compared to that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s writings are small fry.

    • Posted June 27, 2018 at 5:52 am | Permalink

      Was going to say the same thing. Might be fun to offer up Huck Finn in exchange for the bible.

  22. Posted June 27, 2018 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    My mother read us the Little House in the Big Woods, & Little House on the Prairie when I was 7 or 8 I think… I seem to recall preferring the first, as even then I loved trees. I cannot recall any of these sentiments though it is perfectly possible the Puffin Books edition we had was expurgated.

    I was always on the side of the Indians when there was some ‘cowboy’ film on TV.

  23. Posted June 27, 2018 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    Bowdler was a real person–giving his name to the term “Bowdlerized”.
    He went through Shakespeare taking out all the naughty bits. It was not an improvement.
    There have always been censors and they always look ridiculous because they never–and I’m open to counter-examples here, bring em on–have any more artistic sensibility than a discarded toenail clipping.
    If you really want to be a moralist (sure, and why not?) then here’s what you should do in order of merit:
    1) Write a better book (or play, or compose a better opera, or whatever). This may well aid humans in understanding human nature, distinguish real and fake values, and help in their navigating the complex social worlds they inhabit through example, analysis, and poetry.
    2) The second best thing you could do is: Write a piece of halfway decent literary criticism (or equivalent) which sets some work in its historical and artistic context, so that people understand the work better. That’s a legitimate thing to do and it used to be what literary scholars did–before post-modernism swallowed literary departments, like some hideous gargantuan bloated toad with a french accent, leaving behind howling wastelands of worthless crap.
    In absence of decent lit crit what we have instead is:
    3)… And a very very distant third is carp from the sidelines and look for opportunties to display the few virtues you have (because actually doing something usefully political, or genuinely artistic are clearly beyond your abilities)
    The problem isn’t just censorship (although that’s bad). Its that the people doing the commentating on this are fourth rate intellects At best.

  24. Jonathan Dore
    Posted June 27, 2018 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    “This change should not be viewed as a call for readers to change their personal relationship with or feelings about Wilder’s books.”

    They seem oblivious to the likelihood that it *will* change many people’s feelings about the ALSC, and not in a good way.

  25. Posted June 27, 2018 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    It does give a teachable moment either way …

  26. Posted June 28, 2018 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    Don’t read history books or talk about the past. It may offend you.
    History books and historic novels should be required to carry warnings.: Some information and matters contained herein may be offensive to selected groups.


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