Laura Ingalls Wilder Book Award renamed

Discussion in 'Tea Room (Book Chat)' started by Reader, 4 Jul 2018.

  1. Reader

    Reader Vile Critic

    While only tangentially connected to indies, this is something of interest to readers. I find myself uncertain over it, because while I can see the views of those who held that she had views unacceptable to the modern day, trying to ignore that people in the past felt differently, or hide those views, takes a lot of the context away when studying history.

    Should the award have been renamed? Personally I disagree because it displays one vitally important fact: that heroes are not perfect. What I would prefer should happen is that her views should be mentioned front and centre and put in the context of their time.
  2. Tregaron

    Tregaron Member

    "The past is another country, they do things differently there" - Lesley Poles Hartley, 1953
  3. Honeybee42

    Honeybee42 Member

    I do not think the award should have been re-named. It feels a little too 1984 "at war with Eastasia" to scrub the past like that, or otherwise be critical of people from past eras because they didn't think in the same way as "modern day acceptable thought".
  4. skye

    skye Member

    This isn't a new debate: people were talking about her views as early as the 1950's. Readers objected to sentences like "There were no people. Only Indians lived there.’"

    Having an award or honour named for them doesn't endorse everything a person did in their life. On the other hand, it is their award so they can call it what they like.
  5. penumbra

    penumbra Member

    They can rename it whatever they want. It's their property. That doesn't mean I don't disagree though. She was the first recipient of the prize. To name something after the first recipient of a prize isn't ridiculous. She still fits the description of the prize, even if her works are racially insensitive. It's true to the time era she was writing about. It's her life story. It wouldn't be true to either herself or to history for her to have written it any other way. We can't change history, no matter how hard people try.
  6. tirial

    tirial IT fixer extraordinaire

    I would hope that historically people in the past were more backward than today. After all, isn't the point of progressing to move forward;)?

    I'd suggest rather than removing names from awards and books from shelves, putting them to one side to be read by older readers for historical context, or read with parents who can explain why these things aren't acceptable anymore would be more effective.
  7. Zelda

    Zelda Member

    Right? It would be much worse for it to be the other way around.

    I think something like that would be more effective. No kid is going to understand the implications behind the "Laura Ingalls Wilder Reward" unless they are familiar with the series in the first place. Maybe even including some kind of "Introduction" with that kind of information would be a good idea.

    Honestly, I can't blame them for changing the name of the award. Racial insensitivity is a big issue here in the US and it's probably easier to change it than defend it. This probably just isn't the mountain they want to die on.
  8. Gemini

    Gemini Member

    As big of a fan as I am of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I find that difficult to argue with. With lines like, "The only good Indian is a dead Indian," I can see how these books don't fall in line with their core values. It's not like these books will no longer be available. It's just changing the name of an award that has nothing to do with her other than the fact that she was a recipient. I don't see this as censorship. It's rebranding.
  9. porridge

    porridge Member

    I'd luv to win an award named after a guy who hates me. Closest thing I could do to [mod-edit]relieving my feelings[/mod-edit] on thier grave, 'cos they'd be spinning in it.
    Last edited by a moderator: 8 Jul 2018
  10. Reader

    Reader Vile Critic

    Like the gentlemanly and refined soul, you are.

    The revenge vote is an interesting reason though. Endorsing someone whose work expresses the opposite qualities to the person the award is named for sends a far stronger message than merely changing a few words. Does anyone have figures on how many of the people she would disapprove of have won that award?
    Last edited by a moderator: 8 Jul 2018
  11. PageTurner

    PageTurner Member

    I hadn't considered this from the revenge vote angle before.

    @Reader The most recent award winner, Jacqueline Woodson, doesn't seem like someone Laura Ingalls Wilder would've approved of, according to themes mentioned on her Wikipedia page. Having her as a winner definitely seems like a very strong message.
  12. atry

    atry Member

    Is that "Show, don't tell" as a guide for author associations, not just authors?
  13. Reader

    Reader Vile Critic

    First, that phrase is a quote directly attributed to General Sheridan in 1869, so pretending it did not happen is historical revisionism. The book is set in 1869, right after the Dakota War of 1862 where the Dakota Indians killed an estimated figure of over 800 settlers. The story covers this in some detail as "the Minnesota Massacre" that her mother will not talk about in front of the children. The cause of the attack is often attributed to government corruption by the Bureau of Indian Affairs which progressively starved the tribe. The settlers ended up paying the price, but pretending there was not a reason for her mother's fears is to ignore historical context.

    And finally while her mother rejects the Indians because she is scared of them, which is made very clear, her father acts as a counter-point. The full line is:

    “No matter what Mr. Scott said, Pa did not believe that the only good Indian was a dead Indian.”
  14. Zelda

    Zelda Member

    That's true, Pa did serve as a good counterpoint. The attitudes certainly aren't out of context. It's been a while since I've read the books but, from what I can recall, there were instances of the Indians breaking into their home that also show why Ma would be afraid of them. I don't necessarily remember Laura being anti-Indian either. Wasn't she just as fascinated and intrigued by them as she was wary?
  15. skye

    skye Member

    Oh honestly. Is this another case of people saying something should be banned because someone else tells them it should?
  16. jessica

    jessica Active Member

  17. Terry

    Terry Member

    Context, it's always about the context.

    Of course, every group at the time usually thinks that they are in the right and that others who don't think the same way are wrong.

    Makes you wonder what people in 200 years are going to think about today's thoughts: Are we right to think as we do, are we a bunch of special snowflakes, are we considered just as uncivilised as those one hundred years before us?

    It's stupid really because no-one's perfect, and most people will say or do something that others will find disagreeable. It's not like they are espousing the viewpoint in the modern day and try to cause mischief. Perhaps we should put more onus on, you know, actually teaching the kids what these things mean and why they are wrong instead of just trying to hide them away.

    Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it (he paraphrases badly)
  18. Tregaron

    Tregaron Member

    There's a vast gap between showing the attitudes and that they are not acceptable, and pretending they did not exist. I will admit I haven't read her work, but I would be curious to know whether the books include these attitudes or endorse them. There is a big difference.
  19. penumbra

    penumbra Member

    I wouldn't say that the books endorse these attitudes. They simply include them. You're right, that is a big difference. Like @Reader mentioned, while Ma might say racist things about Indians, Pa tends to speak favorably of them.

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