I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized The Integrity of the Past

The Integrity of the Past

Donal Moloney
Born in the Big Woods area of Wisconsin in 1867, Laura Ingalls Wilder is the author of the much-loved “Little House” series of books for children. The novels are based on her childhood experiences along the Western frontier as her family struggled to establish itself. She began writing the series in the 1930s, when she was in her sixties. Later the work was the source material for the popular TV show Little House on the Prairie. Her literary excellence was acknowledged in 1954, when the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) named a prestigious prize for American children’s authors after her. Earlier this year, the ALSC removed her name from the title of the award over concerns about racial insensitivity. This essay argues that she has been unfairly maligned. On the way home Pa said, “Well, Caroline, it’s pleasant to be with a crowd of people all trying to do the right thing, same as we are.” Laura Ingalls Wilder, On the Banks of Plum Creek Viewed pragmatically, the recent decision to remove the name of Laura Ingalls Wilder from a prestigious award for children’s literature can only be described as a sensible move. The legacy of the popular “Little House” series of books had become controversial, with accusations of anti-Native and anti-black sentiments. And even if the racially insensitive passages were mild, it might be considered wrong for a children’s literature prize with aspirations to universality to honour an author with an imperfect record on racism. Most people would agree that children’s literature is not a suitable site for dubious content or racially polarising material. Moreover, if literary institutions are serious about inclusivity – creating an environment in which writers from minority backgrounds feel they have a fair chance to thrive and be heard – then surely that means responding to concerns about racism? Having a major prize named after an author accused of racism could have a discouraging effect on traditionally marginalised ethnic groups. At any rate, who needs the hassle? When a controversy gains enough traction, it consumes the time and resources and taxes the emotions of those caught up in it. And when racism is at issue, reputations can be quickly and lastingly sullied. Accordingly, the decision by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) – a division of the American Library Association (ALA) – to change the name of their high-profile prize from the Laura…

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