Despite the tremendous success of the semiautobiographical series, the Chicago-based American Library Association over the weekend made a decision to rescind Wilder's Medal for Excellence in Children's literature, a prestigious designation in the children's literary world. The decision was received with "a standing ovation by the audience in attendance", The Hill reported the board said.
The Association for Library Service to Children gives out the "Laura Ingalls Wilder Award" yearly to authors whose work has made a lasting impact on the world of children's literature.
Wilder was the first author to receive the award in 1954, nearly 20 years after she wrote the famous 1935 novel, in which she described unoccupied land as a place where "there were no people".
Back in February, when the organization announced in a blog post it was reconsidering the award, its president Lindsay wrote Wilder's legacy, "continues to be a focus of scholarship and literary analysis, which often brings to light anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments in her work" and that it "may no longer be consistent with the intention of the award named for her".
Examples of racist themes include multiple characters saying, "the only good Indian is a dead Indian", and a description, changed in later editions, that said: "There were no people". But she also says your average 8-year-old shouldn't have to read the "Little House" books without some background.
Some applaud the ALSC for taking measures to correct oppressive outdated racial attitudes, but other readers and critics argue that Wilder certainly had no ill intent and that her books - like all art, were merely a reflection of the social mores of their times. "Only Indians lived there", implied that Native Americans were not people-in response, the publisher then changed "people" to "settlers".
Wilder grew up on the frontier, and her books were inspired by her own childhood experiences as part of a pioneer family in 19century Kansas.
In changing the award's name, the library association attempted to navigate this tension.
"Vividly, unforgettably, it still tells truths about white settlement, homesteading and the violent appropriation of Indian land and culture". She added that "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".