Friday, September 23, 2022

Little House On the Prarie

Little House on the Prairie, a series of eight mostly autobiographical books about Laura Ingalls Wilder's life as a white settler on the American prairie, has been a perennial favorite ever since it was first published in 1935.  My second grade teacher started reading it to us.  In the 1970s the TV series with Melissa Gilbert and Michael Landon came onto the scene. I watched it as a child, and watched it again with my own children.

Pa, Ma Wilder and the children, Laura and Mary of the prairie. We went with them through all their obstacles, the sickness of Mary, the birth of children, moving to their own farm, the store owner and his family, the teacher at the school, all of the issues and problems that the family, the children and Ma and Pa had together. This was a time in our history when the West was young, the earth was new, the farming good. New lives, new adventures, to share, and this series gives us hope. So much love and kindness in this family, and that won the day, every time.

The Ingalls family were people of their time and place. In the words of Laura June Topolsky writing for The Awl, that meant they were “Manifest Destiny personified.” Even Pa, the adult character who is most sympathetic to the Osage Indians on whose land the Ingalls family are squatting, sees white people as having a right to the land, writes Laura Ingalls scholar Amy Fatzinger. She quotes Laura’s Pa from the text:

Portrayals of Native American characters in this book and throughout this series have led to some calls for the series to not be taught in schools.  Do you agree?  Why or why not?

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