Here we go again!

Image result for laura ingalls wilder

 

 

by Frances Phillips (Catholic Herald)

The Wilder award has been renamed because the author is out of step with ‘core values’. But there’s so much more to her work

I felt somewhat gloomy when I read that the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) in America has now renamed what was formerly the Wilder Award, electing to call it the deliberately impersonal Children’s Literature Legacy Award. As generations of parents and children know, “Wilder” refers to author Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote a series of books for children in the 1930s and 1940s describing – with some artistic licence – her late 19th-century upbringing in a pioneer family.

Now it seems that Little House in the Big Woods (of Wisconsin), On the Banks of Plum Creek (a dugout in Minnesota), By the Shores of Silver Lake (Dakota Territory), The Long Winter (De Smet, South Dakota) and the others in the series have fallen foul of the ever-vigilant body of people who decide what is “inclusive”, what reflects “diversity” – and what is not in step with “core values”.

Because Ingalls Wilder’s attitudes to Native Americans mirrored the attitudes of her day, she occasionally included phrases and opinions that have rightly been censured in today’s more multicultural society. Thus one character’s observation in the pioneer world of the US after the Civil War that “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” is seen as shocking – conveniently forgetting that another, Pa, responded in a way entirely consonant with his humane and tolerant personality: “The Indians would be as peaceable as anyone else if they were left alone.”

I read all the Ingalls Wilder books to our daughters. What remains in my memory is not the rare lapse referred to above but the enduring values of family life, in which a father and mother loved each other and worked hard to provide for their children; where life was materially very hard (Laura’s favourite doll which was simply a paper cut-out) and sometimes dangerous; where survival depended on each family member sacrificing their own wishes; yet where there was still time to sit and listen to Pa playing his fiddle in the evening, bake festive food or to make “sugar snow”.

I recall once going into the bedroom of my oldest daughter, then aged 8 or 9, and finding her crying. When I asked what the matter was, she sobbed, “Mary has gone blind.” This was Laura’s older sister, the less adventurous Mary, who went blind through contracting meningitis (in the story it is changed to scarlet fever). I also recall trying to make “sugar snow” with our younger daughters. And I recall marvelling at the way patient, resourceful Ma kept the children busy and their spirits up as they sat in one room all day trying to keep warm during the freezing months of The Long Winter.

Wilder’s books are, alongside CS Lewis’s Narnia series, Anne of Green Gables and others, rightly regarded as classics of children’s literature. They will be read and reread long after all the texts manufactured by committees about “relevant issues” gather dust in the classroom.

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8 Responses to Here we go again!

  1. Mary Salmond says:

    In like manner, someone should censor a book written by an Indian at the same time that describes the incoming Europeans as loud and boisterous and brutal. This is all so ridiculous. Laura Wilder is no more at fault in her perceptions than any other author. Anymore, all thoughts and perceptions are to be censored as they might be offensive. The sky is a beautiful blue – wrong.

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  2. johnhenrycn says:

    My modest bookshelf is graced with several works of children’s literature similar to those written by Wilder, including one written by William S. Hart in 1919 – a boy’s adventure story called Injun and Whitey. From the preface by Hart:

    “In the Boys’ Golden West Series I have done my best to present…the West that I knew as a boy. Frontier days were made up of many different kinds of humans. There were men who were muddy-bellied coyotes, so low that they hugged the ground like a snake. There were girls whose cheeks were so toughened by shame as to be hardly knowable from squaws. There were stoic Indians with red-raw, liquor-dilated eyes, peaceable and just when sober, boastful and intolerant when drunk. And then there were those White Men, those moulders, those makers of the great, big open-hearted West…men to whom a Colt gun was the court of last appeal…men who faced staggering odds and danger single-handed and alone, men who created and worked out and made an Ideal Civilization…”

    I look forward to reading Injun and Whitey to my next grandchild when he (or she) is 9 or so.

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  3. kathleen says:

    I used to love watching this delightful series on TV, although I never read the books. (There’s still time to do so 🙂.)

    How sad – but oh so typical – that the Hitlerian crowd that currently rule our world have not only ditched the original name of the award, re “Wilder” (a name that automatically encourages family-oriented literature of this sort) but looks like they aim to change some of the original text too. Big Brother alone decides that these children’s classics do not tow their “diversity” ideas and are not what they call “politically correct” (PC). Stuff them!

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  4. kathleen says:

    @ JH

    So your first grandchild was delivered safe and sound, JH? WONDERFUL NEWS! Congratulations to you and all your family. May God and the Blessed Virgin bless him (or her 😉) with everything holy and good in life, and may you enjoy many happy years of being a doting Grandfather.

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  5. johnhenrycn says:

    Thank you for your kind best wishes, Kathleen. However, the blessed event is still 40 days away. I refer to the child as “he or she” because I’ve told the parents not to let me know the results of the ultrasound procedures. The anticipation – imagining which the child will be – is part of the joyful excitement 🙂

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  6. kathleen says:

    Oh, sorry JH… I have jumped the gun by 40 days then! 😉
    When you said you were looking forward to reading said book (^) to “next grandchild” I thought number one had already arrived, haha! Silly me.

    P.S. Not knowing Baby’s gender beforehand is better IMO too.
    And little girls like stories about injuns just as much as boys… I always did!

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  7. johnhenrycn says:

    Kathleen says:
    “P.S. Not knowing Baby’s gender beforehand is better…”

    Ah, now there you’ve fallen for that same PC mode of expression my son prefers – gender instead of sex. The revered Laura Ingalls Wilder would not know of that of which he speaks. A child having a gender? Forsooth !

    I do trust you’ve never substituted the phrase “sex workers” for “prostitute” or its cognates 😉

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  8. kathleen says:

    “Ah, now there you’ve fallen for that same PC mode of expression my son prefers”

    Oops – did I? I thought I was using the scientific word for the same thing 😉.) Proves my often-mentioned complaint that we’re all under threat of Big Brother”s brainwashing campaign – no exceptions!

    But I still declare (fist in air) that there are only two genders (or sexes) created by God (“male and female He created them”) and NOT six, seven, eight, or whatever growing number the swamp members tell us.

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