A national library group removed author Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a major children’s book award on Saturday over the portrayal of minorities in her writing.
“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,” the board of the Association for Library Service to Children said on its website.
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award will become the Children’s Literature Legacy Award for the 2018 award cycle. The honor is given to an author or illustrator with a book published in the United States who has made “a significant and lasting contribution to children’s literature through books that demonstrate integrity and respect for all children’s lives and experiences.”
Wilder is famed for her “Little House on the Prairie” series, which was based on her childhood in a settler family during the late 1800s. In recent years, her books have come under fire for racist depictions of Native Americans.
Critics have pointed out that Wilder likely did not consider the Native Americans to be the equals of the white settlers moving into their territory: “There the wild animals wandered ... in a pasture that stretched much farther than a man could see, and there were no settlers. Only Indians lived there,” Wilder wrote.
She also wrote in the “Little House” series that her mother despised Native Americans and quoted another character saying “the only good Indian was a dead Indian.”
While acknowledging the series’ popularity and its significant place in the history of children’s literature, the ALSC board said that Wilder’s characterizations of minorities have hurt many people.
“Perceptions matter, along with the very real pain associated with her works for some, and year after year ALSC gives the impression of upholding Wilder’s works through an award that bears her name,” the board wrote.
The ALSC, which is part of the American Library Association, also presents the Newbery and Caldecott Awards.
CORRECTION: It was not Ma Ingalls but another character in the “Little House” series who repeated the infamous line about good Indians and dead Indians.