by Lisa Hudson
As we’ve all heard, Laura Ingalls Wilder was a racist. At least that’s what the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), determined when they removed Mrs. Wilder’s name from The Laura Ingalls Wilder medal, “…an honor bestowed on an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.” The ALSC stated, regarding their decision to change the name to the Children’s Literacy Legacy Award, “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.” Core values, or core agenda?
The questionable content, which has apparently drawn negative attention for decades, is contained in the second book of the nine book series, Little House on the Prairie, in which the Ingalls family sets down stakes on the plains of Kansas in 1869. Presumably, the ALSC ignored the other eight books in the series, as well as the remainder of Wilder’s writing that makes up the body of her literary work — approximately 150 works authored, or co-authored by Wilder. Yet, somehow, Wilder’s legacy boils down to parts of a story that, combined, wouldn’t fill an entire page.
Let’s not kid ourselves. The offending content (although emotionally accurate from an historical perspective) was written almost 90 years ago. Wilder has been dead for 60 of them. She was two years old when her family settled in Kansas, and three when they left and settled elsewhere. The majority of Little House on the Prairie was so far removed from Wilder’s memory it’s grossly fictionalized. The story was carved out of the memories of others, and it doesn’t take a writer to understand that recollection of conversations has a tendency to be acutely artificial. But never mind that. The real problem with Wilder is that she was a conservative/libertarian with deeply held religious beliefs, white, and heterosexual, and that doesn’t jibe with the agenda of the progressive Left — of which the overtly liberal ALA is a member.
The ALA, with this recent move, has taken its identity politics to a whole new level. Today’s librarian is nothing like the gentle, soft-spoken librarian of the past. Today, he or she is a card carrying social justice warrior. As explained by David Durant, a librarian at East Carolina University, “…in terms of political composition, the library profession makes your typical Ivy League faculty look like the Heritage Foundation.” Durant continued, “…As one of those rarest of beasts, a conservative librarian, I can attest firsthand to the stifling left-wing orthodoxy of modern American librarianship.”
That stifling left-wing orthodoxy is also what drives the politicizing and propagandizing of children’s literature. Not surprisingly, the winner of this year’s Wilder Award is Jacqueline Woodson, referred to in a number of articles as a “queer mom of color,” whose experiences are not that of a “…white, straight family on the prairie.” Today, Wilder wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of having an award created in her name, much less of being nominated for it.
The ALA propaganda machine also underwrites the Stonewall Book Awards — Mike Morgan and Larry Roman’s Children and Young Adult Literature Awards, honoring exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender experience. This year, one of the honors went to a book entitled, As The Crow Flies, a story about a black, queer teenager spending the summer at a Christian camp. Amazon summarizes, “…she’s spending a week of her summer vacation stuck at an all-white Christian youth backpacking camp. As the journey wears on and the rhetoric wears thin, she can’t help but poke holes in the pious obliviousness of the storied sanctuary with little regard for people like herself.” (Emphasis added.) The book characterizes God and Christians as non-inclusive — a talking point progressives use ad nauseum in pushing their agenda. Just a smidgeon or so of prejudice there, but who’s keeping track?
Additionally, the ALA underwrites the Rainbow Project Book List, which recommends books dealing with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues for children 18 and under, including picture books for children as young as three. (Three!) A 2017 selection in Young Adult Fiction checks three boxes on the social agenda checklist: a teenage lesbian whose parents are abortionists and whose brother (obviously a white, Christian misogynist) refers to his parents as “baby killers.”
Liz Soeiro, the progressive librarian who became an internet sensation when she rejected Dr. Seuss books gifted to her by First Lady Melania Trump, instead displays books like Sparkle Boy and Gay and Lesbian History for Kids, on her school library shelves. This elementary grade librarian has even been given her own book list on the Social Justice Books website, called Librarian #Resists. The list wouldn’t be complete without a story about a red crayon that wants to be blue.
Interestingly, Theodor Seuss Geisel also has an ALA award in his name, which honors literary and artistic achievements that demonstrate creativity and imagination to engage children in reading. Ted Geisel deserves to have an award in his name. His books have been a bellwether in literature for emerging readings for generations.
It warrants consideration, however, why Wilder had her name scrubbed from an award based on a rather fictionalized account of her family’s life on the prairie in 1869, while Geisel’s early work from the 1920s to the 1940s — mostly ads and political cartoons — includes blatantly prejudicial and stereotypical content. Nonetheless, the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award has not come under the same microscopic scrutiny as Wilder.
On second thought, it’s not that confusing. Geisel was a well-known progressive Democrat, and we all know progressive Democrats get a pass. Just ask a librarian.
Photo credit: Lorie Shaull via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0