Laura Ingalls Wilder Award renamed after racism concerns

Laura Ingalls Wilder Award renamed after racism concerns

The US Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) has changed the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children's Literature Legacy Award because of “anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments” in the author’s work.

The association announced the change on Saturday (23rd June), saying: “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.”

Ingalls Wilder’s books include The Little House in the Big Woods (1932) and are inspired by her childhood as part of a family of pioneers. They are still read by children today but the author’s legacy is complex and “Wilder’s work is not universally embraced”, said ALSC.

“ALSC works to promote excellence in literature for children that aligns with our core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness, as well as to our strategic plan,” it said. “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.”

The ALA announced it was considering changing the name of the prize in February, prompting Caroline Fraser, author of Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Fleet), to write an article in the Washington Post saying her books should still be read.

“The novel has racist elements, and its portrayal of Indians has consequences when read uncritically and approvingly in schools... Whether we love Wilder or hate her, we should know her. For decades, her legacy has been awash in sentimentality, but every American — including the children who read her books — should learn the harsh history behind her work. Vividly, unforgettably, it still tells truths about white settlement, homesteading and the violent appropriation of Indian land and culture.”