In 1954, Laura Ingalls Wilder became the first author to receive the award bearing her own name: the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) first established this award as a way to recognize notable works by U.S. children’s book authors.
But last week, after several months of deliberation, the ALSC decided to remove Wilder’s name from the award. From now on, the award will be the “Children’s Literature Legacy Award.” The ALSC’s reasons for this change boiled down to certain phrases and scenes in Wilder’s “Little House” books that could be seen as demeaning towards Native Americans and African Americans.
For decades, critics of Wilder’s books have complained about this apparent racism. Others look past the questionable portions, seeing them simply as representations of the cultural mentality of Wilder’s time. Nevertheless, these segments of her books still stir controversy among readers both young and old. In their final decision, the ALSC considered these questionable portions, ultimately concluding that “Wilder’s legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values.”
In response to the ALSC’s decision, defenders of Wilder’s work argued that the apparently racist remarks are no reason to remove Wilder’s name from the award. As the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association explains, the “perspectives of racism” in her books were “representative of her time and place.” The association continues, saying,
We believe it is not beneficial to the body of literature to sweep away her name as though the perspective sin her books never existed. Those perspectives are teaching moments to show generations to come how the past was and how we, as a society, must move forward with a more inclusive and diverse perspective.
The ALSC, however, insists that its choice to remove her name is not a form of censorship, since readers still have access to the books and the ability to discuss them. As the ALSC clarifies, the group simply has no desire to give the impression “of upholding Wilder’s works through an award that bears her name.”
Leah Hickman is a 2017 graduate of Hillsdale College’s English program. She freelances for BreakPoint.org and has written pieces for multiple Hillsdale College campus publications as well as for ChristianAnswers.net/Spotlight and the Discover Laura Blog. Read more by Leah at aworldofgrasspeople.blogspot.com.
Photo courtesy: Flickr.com
Publication date: June 26, 2018