Wednesday, April 10, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Laura Ingalls Wilder

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Laura Ingalls Wilder

Dear Ms. Wilder,

History can be a hard sell, especially when you're trying to talk to the young. Though I've always loved story, I had a tepid interest in history, thanks to years of lackluster presentation. Elementary school textbooks in the seventies definitely left out anything I might have found interesting.

But somewhere along the way, I discovered historical fiction and you were one of my first loves in that regard.  I read all the Little House books when I was a kid, imagining myself out on the prairie alongside you. When the television show based on your books came out, my fascination only grew because the actress who portrayed you looked like me. After all, I was a slip of a girl with freckles and braids, too.

I know there's been a bit of controversy about your books here of late, in particular the portrayal of Native American characters. Since I read them as a white child in the 1970s, I didn't notice that at the time. Given the time you wrote about and the time you wrote in, it's not that surprising that contemporary readers would feel differently about some things now.

I've only re-read the first book as an adult, sharing it with my own daughter. She, like me, was fascinated with the level of detail. I remember us stopping after reading a part about smoking meat. The sheer amount of labor it took astonished us both and made us feel very spoiled and lazy in our contemporary lives, where you just go to the store and buy whatever kind of meat you want, cleaned, measured, and packaged for you. 

Your books will always be important for that: for showing children what your childhood was like, in a time and place very different than any of us live in now.

Thanks for helping me learn that history isn't boring if it's told right.

A fellow pig-tailed girl,


  1. I remember reading those books as a kid, too.

  2. I also grew up reading (and re-reading) the Little House on the Prairie books. The controversy around her books recently has saddened me, not because it's necessarily wrong, but our society as a whole seems to be taking a sharp turn towards censorship in the form of 'non-offensiveness'. It's ridiculous to hold writers of the past - especially dead writers - to today's standards. And if we eliminate works and authors of the past because of societal issues in the time they lived in... how are we supposed to keep improving?