Tag Archives: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Publication of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Pioneer Girl

It’s been announced recently that the South Dakota State Historical Society Press is preparing an annotated edition of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s memoir “Pioneer Girl,” with plans to publish the book in June 2013. It’s being prepared by Pamela Smith Hill, author of the exceptional biography Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life, which I found filled with wonderful new insights and information about Wilder, her families, and her communities.

I started reading Wilder’s books as a boy, around the same time that I watched reruns of the TV show Little House on the Prairie on the nearest CBS affiliate. Unlike a number of readers of Wilder’s texts who detested the TV show due to the huge liberties taken with the story, I found both Little House worlds equally interesting, in spite of the differences in terms of medium and storytelling style (also, alas, the books did not have extreme close-ups of Pa crying). Moreover, I’ve continued to be interested in both adapted texts and adaptations as an adult. The TV show Little House on the Prairie remains a guilty pleasure, and I confess to enjoying the wide range of parodies and mash-ups I’ve seen on YouTube. My research in the field of Ingalls-Wilder-Lane studies hasn’t been extensive, except for a few review articles and a website that doesn’t get a lot of traffic, but this fall I’ll be publishing a chapter entitled “Our Home on Native Land: Adapting and Readapting Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie” in my latest collection of essays, Textual Transformations in Children’s Literature. (I went over the copy-edited version not too long ago and am currently waiting for proofs. The book should be out in August or September.)

This week I started rereading Wilder’s novel Farmer Boy (the one about Almanzo), partly because I haven’t reread it in ages and partly because I’m trying to make sense of a recent sequel entitled Farmer Boy Goes West. I’ve also had a blast reading recent memoirs by Melissa Gilbert, Alison Arngrim, and Melissa Anderson, three of the actors from the TV show. I always enjoy knowing more about the people behind texts or shows that I like—even (or especially) aspects that reveal them to be real human beings.

Anyway, I’m glad Pioneer Girl will finally be available in book form. I read parts of one draft on microfilm, and it was enough to convince me that it’s a significantly different story than the one told in Wilder’s autofiction. These differences are important, especially because of the misconception that Wilder’s books are straightforward autobiography or memoir. They are, in a sense, but without insisting on total historical accuracy. In the final analysis, they are not history, but story.

Wilder’s literary and cultural legacy shows no signs of slowing down. Her books are about to be reissued in the Library of America, in two paperback volumes and in a boxed set of hardcovers, both of which are definitely on my to-buy list. Her (largely negative) depiction of Native Americans is complex and complicated (at least to an extent), and it needs to be discussed more, especially since the novel Little House on the Prairie is still being bought for children. And while there have been numerous attempts to keep the story going by devising all kinds of prequels, sequels, interquels, sidequels, abridgments, and activity books, none of these offshoots—except for the TV show Little House on the Prairie—has endured. It’s Wilder’s own story that continues to be read, reread, and discussed as a particular slice of U.S. colonial history and children’s literature. And so having access to Wilder’s original first-person memoir, which she transformed into a set of children’s books after being unable to sell it, will add tremendously to our understanding of how this purportedly “true” story came to be shaped and reshaped.

A website for the Pioneer Girl Project has also been launched, and I for one look forward to seeing more details about this book as they become available.

UPDATE: Speaking of Laura Ingalls Wilder, my friend Melanie Fishbane has just published a guest blog entry on the excellent website Beyond Little House, which is the go-to place for everything Wilder-related. She discusses the chapter “Almanzo Says Good-By” from These Happy Golden Years and even throws in the weird-but-fascinating TV movie Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder, where the keyword “true” definitely belongs in quotation marks (but it’s fascinating nonetheless)

UPDATE 2: I guess I should mention that Mel and I actually drove to Dearborn, Michigan in November 2010 to see a Laura Ingalls Wilder exhibit there. You can read more about it in Mel’s blog post, where I’m the unidentified “friend.”

CFP: LauraPalooza 2012: What Would Laura Do?

[The call for papers for this exciting conference was posted recently on the website of Beyond Little House, an amazing resource for Ingalls-Wilder-Lane studies.]

The National Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association Conference

Sponsored by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association and the Department of Mass Media at Minnesota State University, Mankato

We invite submissions of paper, panel, and workshop proposals for review and possible acceptance for presentation at the second LauraPalooza conference, to be held on the campus of MSU, Mankato, July 12-14, 2012.

The theme of this year’s conference reflects the continuing interest in the lives and stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, particularly as related to American culture, history, values, and ideological practice. Participants may consider asking themselves, “What Would Laura Do?”

Topics may include:

  • The broad influence the stories have had on American popular culture in the last 75 years
  • The history of the books and their cultural, educational, political, and social influences
  • The renewed interest in women’s handwork as cultural artifacts of women’s history
  • The preservation of American folk music ways
  • The preservation of American food ways
  • The strategic and political influence of farming and farming culture in American history
  • The long-term ramifications of the 1862 Homestead Act on Western culture
  • The ever-widening circle of Lane’s politically Libertarian belief structures
  • Historical racism and its lasting effects
  • New discoveries in individual research that add to the Lane and Wilder legacies
  • Any other way you might interpret the legacies of Wilder and Lane.

Submit your proposal in the form of a 700- to 1,000-word abstract, outlining your idea and research, by midnight on December 15, 2011. All proposals should include a 200-word bio as would be appropriate for the conference program. Panel proposals should include bios for all panelists and his/her topic of discussion. Workshop proposals should include an outline of the workshop curriculum and materials needed.

We are also accepting proposals for presentations or programs for Camp Laura, an activity-based conference for elementary school children, running concurrently with Laurapalooza 2012. Please follow the same submission guidelines outlined above, but denote “Camp Laura” at the top of your abstract.

Be sure to include all contact information. Abstracts should be sent via email to amy.lauters@mnsu.edu, conference chair. Acceptance notifications will be sent out via email on the birthdate of Laura Ingalls Wilder: February 7. Those with accepted proposals will be expected to register for and attend the LauraPalooza 2012 conference. (Registration begins in February.)

[Find a PDF of the Call for Proposals here.]