Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Last week the American Library Association (ALA) announced that the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, a prestigious children’s literature prize, would henceforth be called the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. You can read the announcement on the award’s website and dig into the rationale as deeply as you want by clicking on the site’s links.
The Story Behind the Change
While the association’s press release and other documents present the decision as civilized, sensitive, inclusive, and compelling, in my opinion, the name change represents taking an eraser to our country’s history. By way of background, the award initially was named after Wilder for her significant contribution to children’s literature.
Many a young girl still falls in love with reading because of Wilder’s books. And many a young reader still cozies up to the charming Ingalls family as they settled into their soddie and made do with whatever was at hand through each season of the year. The three sisters fell into a deep slumber each night to the sound of Pa’s fiddle playing. Young readers see what a happy, resilient family looks like, even though the girls themselves might well experience something far less wholesome in their own families.
The Rationale for the Change
All of the love, warmth, and sweetness remain even today in those novelized stories of Wilder’s own pioneering childhood. And ALA carefully writes that the name change is not intended to censor the books themselves. The organization believes removing Wilder’s name from the award makes sense because Ms. Wilder, who wrote the books in the 1930s and 1940s, depicted those lovable people as what we today would label racists. A variety of characters in The Little House on the Prairie utter the sentiment that “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” That probably was considered sage and true advice in the late 1800s, when Laura grew up in a land where settlers were sparse and Native Americans could kill you. After all, the pioneers and Native Americans were at war.
Another offensive passage occurs when Laura attends a minstrel show and refers to the African Americans as “five black-faced men in raggedy-taggedy uniforms.”
Why Readers Should Care
Stripping Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from the award is to post-posthumously dishonor a writer for portraying commonly-held views from the era in which she grew up. It’s also a subtle form of denial that a shameful time in our history occurred. We must remember who we were so we all can strive to be better versions of ourselves. Whites’ treatment of Native Americans constituted an egregious time that all whites need to acknowledge really happened. Wilder’s books for the most part showcase the beauty of a family loving its members well. But they also highlight the shadow side of some of those people. Isn’t that part of a good story’s job? Not to create caricatures of settlers but multi-dimensional characters.
Why Writers Should Care
Sometimes being politically correct isn’t correct at all. I think the ALA’s decision is a case in point. As a writer, you work hard to accurately depict a person, a time period, and the attitudes that prevailed. This does not lessen the quality of what you write but enhances it. Even if you hold beliefs that society eventually comes to disagree with, don’t you expect to have the right to communicate those beliefs without future generations berating your contribution to the public discourse? What if, a generation or two from now, it’s not politic to write about one’s personal belief in Jesus? It’s such an excluding worldview, after all.
Are we so unsettled by people’s past behaviors that we feel compelled to step away from important voices from those times?
“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”
~ George Orwell, 1984
Who Else Belongs in the Pantheon of Infamous Authors?
What other authors do we want to distance ourselves from? Mark Twain? Now, there was an opinionated man who held forth many a thought that we would condemn today if it were uttered in our hearing.And yet, how much delight do we experience when we read a humorous piece of his? Or gain insight into life from Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn?
What about Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, which was written in the 1930s, as were many of Wilder’s books? Mammy is a winsome character. No wait, maybe she is a caricature…
How Far Will We Go?
I didn’t intend to write a blog post about the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award until I read an article in the June 11 of Publishers Weekly. The magazine always concludes on the last page with an opinion piece sent in by one of Publishers Weekly’s readers.
In this issue, an author writes an essay entitled “Cover Bias.” She argues that fiction covers shouldn’t employ full-face images but should leave what the character looks like to the reader’s imagination. That way the book will appeal to a broader swath of readers–in terms of readers’ age, ethnicity, and imperfect bodies that compare poorly to the models on many a cover.
The writer suggests: “Finding agnostic cover art isn’t easy, but there are a few tricks:…think twice about showing faces; maintain a sense of possibility by using ambiguous models; and avoid ethnic anchoring by converting images to grayscale, sepia, or alternative color scales.”
As I read the essay, I thought to myself, I don’t think I would relate to a cover model with gray skin. How far will we go to pretend we aren’t different from one another?
So now I ask you,
Are these authors and their works of less value to us because of their flaws? Or of greater value because of them?
P.S. Now that I’ve thrown this hot potato at you, let me add that I’ll be traveling when this article posts so I won’t be able to join you in the conversation.
Does the name change to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award make sense to you? Join the conversation. Click to tweet.
Why should writers care that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name was stripped from the prestigious children’s award? Click to tweet.
Yeah, OK. Keith Richards famously said that if you’re going to kick authority in the teeth, you may as well use both feet. So here goes:
I find it awfully ironic that the Political Correctness Politburo can parse a silken thread to condemn the verisimilitude of the time in the works of such as Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mark Twain whilst cheerfully fighting for the ‘right’ to slaughter unborn babies by the million.
* Allow me to explain – I recently wrote a novel called “Emerald Isle” (yeah it’s a plug, go out and buy the thing…please!) in which one of the main themes was abortion to save the life of the mother. When I started writing it, I as mildly neutral on the subject; I just didn’t think about it.
* But the required research (beyond Wikipedia) took me to a place where nightmares live; a place where fetuses that are alive by any definition, and CAN react to stimuli, are, bluntly, dismembered while living. And yeah, I looked at both sides, but when one side’s advocating infanticide, they don’t look too darn sympathetic. Sorry.
* But it’s not PC to say this; I’m a crazed, radical Christian whose views are so out of step with the ‘mainstream’ that I imagine that EI, if it achieves success and influence, will be a target for the progressive book-burners. (Well, good luck with that one, as it’s only available digitally so far.)
* So (having taken the opportunity to push Emerald Isle), I’ll say this; that we need Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe because they told the truth of their times; these may not be our truths now, but if we stand in judgement with the gift of a foresight these writers didn’t have, we are betraying the very purpose of writing, and we are selling out to a maudlin sensibility that is a thin glove of compassion over a mailed fist of control.
Mary Kay Moody
I so agree, Andrew!!
I agree completely with you Andrew!
Mary Kay Moody
I think stories of this type are of greater value, not lesser, because of the historical accuracy. We all know that story impacts. So often we see nuances of life in a particular era much more clearly via story than being told data. After 16 years of schooling and nearly as many history classes, I’d read a lot of information about Early American & Indian (Yes, that’s how they were referred to) interaction. But reading Laura Frantz’s Courting Morrow Little and Lori Benton’s Burning Sky and The Wood’s Edge brought me into the heart of that era ~ opening up a deeper understanding of the people and what they faced than ever a history class did.
There is danger in taking a blowtorch to any inconvenient history. George Orwell showed us a fictional example. But I’m reminded of newspapers in the Soviet Union ~ Pravda (The Truth) and Izvestia (The News) and a popular saying about them: “There’s no truth in Pravda and no news in Izvestia.” Thomas Jefferson wrote that an educated electorate is the foundation of democracy. What will follow if we eradicate historical accuracy?
Do unto your ancestors as you would have your descendants do unto you.
I was shocked to learn that my special needs child was reading Tom Sawyer–not because of the content, but rather the dialect. “They changed it in this version,” the teacher told me. “The only thing I don’t like is that Jim is called a handyman.” How helpful . . . we can all pretend that slavery didn’t happen.
Ugh, that is disgusting to me. It could be read in the original with the context of history taught alongside of it.
I think of it like studying my Bible. Yeah, I can just read it and be offended by different aspects of it, or I can research and study the context and have a better, deeper understanding of it and actually learn and find ways to apply a section I didn’t think (in my infinite wisdom ha ha ha) should be in there. Those are the times I generally find the greatest growth.
You can not sugarcoat the less desirable parts of history in order to make the present more palatable.
Great comment Lara. If all of the undesirable parts where removed we would have to revise all the historical books including the Bible! And,that is ludicrous!
Kristen Joy Wilks
I understand why the award was renamed. The Little House on the Prairie books, most certainly do contain racism and paint it as a normal part of life. We do not want to teach our kids that this sin is somehow acceptable, because racism is alive and real today. The problem is, that her examples of racism were a normal part of her world. It is an ugly truth that we should address with our children. They are books that we must “read with” our kids. Share thoughts together and teach about and learn from the past so that we can walk into the future with more strength and kindness than we had before. It makes life difficult to have to address these things, but evil is difficult to deal with, racism especially. My sons enjoy watching Gilligan’s Island. I love how they laugh at the castaways antics. But my goodness, the show is such a collection of racist stereotypes and insulting depictions of anyone who is not white! Choosing to watch this old classic, means having a serious talk. Makes life a little more difficult, but it is important to realize where we have come from so that we go to better places in the future.
Perhaps the most willfully stupid thing about removing Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from the award and tearing down statues and renaming streets and schools is that none of these actions DO anything except to wave the flag of a kind of condescending sensitivity, and encourage a culture of victimhood.
* The basic problems are left untouched, and all this is, is another coat of paint over the rusting Potemkin village into which we’ve forced our brothers and sisters who happen to look different. We send them to schools that couldn’t prepare an Einstein for a clerkship, and dump them into communities that have been abandoned to drugs and crime under the guise of ‘respecting racial culture’. We tell them (yes, THEM, get over it) that we care and we bow our heads while surreptitiously checking our phones, and we do absolutely bloody nothing except wring our clean hands, never seeing that Lady Macbeth is us.
* The ALA may be ‘woke’, but I rather doubt that any of their trustees are going to vacation in downtown East St. Louis. But hey, at least they’ve done ‘what they could’; and they’ve signalled their sympathy.
* And sympathy is best found in the dictionary, between s*** and syphilis.
Make room on that soapbox for me, Andrew. I recently read that only 7% of Detroit 8th graders read at grade level. Most of them wouldn’t be able to read the “Little House” books if they wanted to. Taking Wilder’s name off an award won’t make a whit of difference to those kids. Surely those librarians could put their time to better use in our inner-city schools, working one-on-one with children who can’t read.
* And this does raise the question of what is our obligation, as writers, to get out there and help disadvantaged kids learn to read? Should we organize a Writers’ Reading Corps, to bring this blessing to those who are failed by the system which profligately wastes our tax dollars on just about anything else?
* It’s a grand vision, but I won’t be there. I can hide behind the “Oh, dear, I’m SICK!” excuse, but the real reasons lie elsewhere. Maybe you can identify with some of them; maybe not.
1) It feels futile – like trying to clean up a levee breach on the Mississippi with a bucket. The adverse momentum of things as they are will crush my efforts.
2) The community is likely to resent my intrusion as an example of ‘race largesse’, and I don’t want the aggro.
3) My writing serves to elevate my readers’ consciences, and thus is a higher calling (boy, did I cringe at that).
4) It just isn’t that important to me; I have other causes, and someone else is going to have to address that one.
* So in a very real sense, I AM a racist, because I can trot out any number of reasons why I shouldn’t help a racial community that could use my specific expertise. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not ashamed, either; it’s just life, and life has to suck for someone.
* If I’m remembered at all, I may be pilloried for this by a more enlightened society, my work tossed down the memory hole as the final temporal punishment.
* Fine. I’m no Laura Ingalls Wilder, and it’s no great loss. But let those Future Perfect People know that I’m part of what made them, I’m the compost from which their enlightenment grew, and pretending a beautiful rose can grow without s*** is the ultimate self-delusion.
I was so disappointed to hear the name change of the award. And the quote from George Orwell hit home so hard it sent chills down my spine.
How often I have seen men and women raised prior to and during the Civil Rights movements that said racists things at that time (because that was what the culture believed!), changed their viewpoints later over time, and then were still held punished today for a comment they made over fifty years ago. It just isn’t right. You cannot erase history.
I watched a video from a Holocaust survivor last night and she (talking about forgiveness) said we do not have the power to change what happened, it happened. But we do have the power to forgive and move on. In the 90’s, she even had a doctor from Auschwitz write up a document explaining the gas chambers and his participation, and then sign it so that if anyone ever had the audacity to say it didn’t happen, she could wave the proof in their face. When we dishonor the people who wrote what they lived, it’s like saying they were wrong and that wasn’t the way it happened.
I write historical fiction and one of my hopes is not to impose today’s worldviews on the past but to show the authentic worldviews of the past to the present in a respectful way that helps us grow as a nation by seeing where we have been and where we are going. History forgotten is doomed to repeat itself. I hate revisionist history. We weren’t there. We didn’t experience it. But when we read from those who lived it, we can still learn from it.
Okay, I will get off my soapbox, mainly because if I keep going I will end up yelling and screaming–which since my husband is on a business call behind me, probably would not end well.
The reasons they denigrate the Little House books are the very reasons we need to read them. Our country has a long history of racism and racial strife and – yes – genocide. When I read the Little House books as a girl, my mother explained to me why those attitudes were wrong, but Laura Ingalls Wilder’s writing helped me understand the fear that lies at the base of all racism, the fear of the “other,” of the different. And it didn’t take too much imagination to understand the fear the Native Americans felt as these very different, very “other” white people started building on their land. History and historical fiction must portray real, good-but-flawed people like the Ingalls family to help us understand. And that’s one of many, many reasons the Little House books are truly great.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
This whole issue makes me livid. Most of you know what I write, and let’s just say that it is a harder path than I ever thought possible.
Anyway, a few years ago, I found a children’s book and bought it. (Of course, now I can’t find it on any of the multitude of books shelves in my house.)
I bought it because it had a cover with the stereotypical portrayal of a violent, bloodthirsty Native American and a defenseless Anglo captive as she was carried away on his horse. Yes, even the horse looked mean.
I bought it so that no one else could. I wanted to trash it, but I didn’t, because I needed the reminder to keep me aware of what is out there.
Yes, the histories of every civilization are dripping in the blood of the conquered, and the victors. Yes, the victors write the history books. Yes, there was and is evil on both sides. But LIW is not one of those writers who sought to instill hatred in her readers.
I have read research books that made me come close to being ill, and many that broke my heart. But again, LIW never wrote any of those.
A recent film came out called Hostiles with Rosamund Pike, Christian Bale and Wes Studi. It is a violent but balanced view of life at the time the American West was opening up. Key word here is violent. But if Studi was in that film, that means he meant to bridge the horrors of the past with the current need for peace.
As for the power of words, and the heartache that sweeps across Native America, even today, here’s some Navajo for your morning.
“Háálá Diyin God éí nihokáá’ dine’é t’áá íiyisí ayóó’ájó’níigo bąą haYe’ t’ááłá’í há yizhchínígíí baazhníłtį́, áko t’áá háiida boodlą́ągo baa dzólíhígíí éí doo ádoodįįł da, nidi iiná doo ninít’i’ii bee hólǫ́ǫ dooleeł.”
By the way, I bet the ALA would twists themselves in knots about whether or not to allow those words in a children’s book, because that was John 3:16.
I hope the outcry over Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name continues and the PC Army gets a good dose of protest. This sort of thing is ridiculous.
Jennifer. You and I think alike. Janet, great post. This reminds me in a small way of all the statues being removed in the South. It might be ugly history, but it happened and we need to learn from it. My passion is Native American history and culture. It’s all I can do to remain calm when people still cling to the notion “It happened so long ago, they (American Indians) need to move on.” Many people are still so closed minded about what had happened to Native Americans and what continues to happen today. If we erase the realities of history and don’t use it as a teachable tool, very little will change.
My blood boils all over again, as I read this. Loved everything you had to say. How easy it is to disparage someone when they are not around. How easy to pretend that you are so much better and quite dignified and perfect. Ugh! That the ALA stripped her of the honor says much about them, and nothing about her. It’s just sad. If we must remove every imperfect name from every title/award/street/statue, then every trophy and sign we hold up will be as dull as a grayscale, ambiguous book cover. I love Laura and the sweet evenings and impact she made on our family as we read her books together.
I didn’t mean to write so passionately. Please excuse the fervor. But I did want to add one point: The way I read the books, Ma feared and disliked the Natives but Pa did not. Also, Laura also told how a person with dark skin saved her family when they were gravely sick. The black-face scene was hard to read, but a teachable moment. Anyway, I’m tossing the potato on to the next person. 🙂
Don’t apologise, Jenny. Your passion is an inspiration.
“Black-face” in a minstrel show would be white actors with shoe polish on their faces pretending to be black. Which was insulting in itself. You see it in a lot of movies from the first half of the 20th century. Al Jolson was famous for singing “Mammy” in black-face.
I have a hard time watching many old movies because I know how badly Hollywood treated black actors, but it is important for us to remember and teach our children.
For some positive history, read the story of Gene Kelly’s dance with the Nicholas Brothers (my all-time favorite dancers) in “The Pirate.” 🙂
If that is the case, then we must immediately change the name of the Chaucer Award in Britain, because one of Canterbury Tales is shockingly anti-Semitic. We must strip the name of Shakespeare from every building, acting troupe and school, because he said some unflattering things about natives, and might have supported servitude.
Lets replace them with perfect people who were never held a prejudiced thought in their head- oh, hang on, that is not going to work- because there are no perfect human beings.- and guess what, every civilization on the face of the planet has enslaved, attacked or killed others at some point in their history.
So they want to knock Horatio Nelson off his pedestal because he supported slavery- fine- let’s also tear down all the statues of Saladin as well, because he had slaves too. Its just that people don’t talk about that, and few know it.
At Oxford University, there was a campaign to cover up a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a 19th century businessman, because he represented the ‘oppression’ of South Africans. Fine, OK, lets tear down all the statues of Shaka Zulu, a revered African King, because he killed other Africans as well: he massacred and drove out other tribes before him.
There are always two sides to every story: and you can always guarantee that for whoever wants to take down the heroes of one person, their heroes have flaws they would rather not think about or committed misdeeds they would rather not talk about.
What strikes me with things like this is the hypocrisy and double standards. The same people who complain about Wilder, if you confront them over certain racist attitudes espoused by the likes of Charles Darwin and Margaret Sanger will shrug their shoulders and say ‘that’s just a reflection of the times’.
In other words, they are fully aware of historical context, and the mores of a different age, they just apply them selectively. When its people we favour, we give the benefit of the doubt. When its someone we don’t like, its a different matter.
Janet Ann Collins
I strongly agree with you. If we wipe out all knowledge of past prejudices that will make it more likely that new ones will develop in the future. I’m frequently seeing news about how famous people from the past are having their names removed from places that honored them because their views are now known to have been wrong. But if we don’t know history we truly will be doomed to repeat it.
From the ALA/ALSC response to the Wilder Medal name change:
“Changing the name of the award should not be viewed as an attempt to censor, limit, or deter access to Wilder’s books and materials, but rather as an effort to align the award’s title with ALSC’s core values. This change should not be viewed as a call for readers to change their personal relationship with or feelings about Wilder’s books. Updating the award’s name should not be construed as censorship, as we are not demanding that anyone stop reading Wilder’s books, talking about them, or making them available to children. We hope adults think critically about Wilder’s books and the discussions that can take place around them.”
* What smug and disingenuous rubbish. The name change is part of a campaign against LIW’s books, to change their very paradigm. No longer are they good stories about growing up in a time long past; they are now prima facie evidence of a racist author representing a racist society, mere examples to be used in making a point. Any child checking these out will be issued a stern warning about their content, how the characters did bad things and that the reader should keep this in mind, and talk with their parents about the ‘issues’. Makes it kinda hard to sit back with a flashlight under the covers past bedtime, sneaking a good read.
* Never mind the warmth, the humour, the grace shown one another, and the grace extended (exceptional for the time) to those of other races. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s contribution will be crushed, thanks to the ALA, under the impact of a red-inked stamp – “Racist”.
* And that, guys, is EXACTLY what these people want, their mealy-mouthing aside.
I fell in love with the Little House books at age 5, and credit my love of historical fiction–and by extension, my present writing of historical fiction–in large degree to Laura Ingalls Wilder. Growing up, I was so enamored with Little House, and one of my friends and I so exclusively played Mary and Laura in our pretend games, that I used to sign any letter or note I wrote to her from “Laura.” 🙂
In recent years, as Native American history and racial understanding and reconciliation have become extremely important to me as I’ve learned more about the darker sides of our history, I’ve struggled some with my feelings over these beloved books. Not just the occasional comments that reflect the time, but the reality that the Ingalls family were part of the wave of settlers that so devastated Native peoples across this land, whether intentional or not. I do think Laura had a more advanced perspective than many of her time, shown in Pa’s open-mindedness towards the Native peoples and her own positive memory of the black doctor who helped them when they had malaria. To me, the most troubling scene is when Pa takes part in the black-face minstrel show–a scene that completely went over my head as a child.
So I’ve had a lot of mixed feelings in reading articles about Laura’s name being removed from this award. If her books themselves were being censored, I would vehemently disagree, as I wholeheartedly agree with all of you who point out the importance of learning from our history, not erasing or sanitizing it. I look forward to having important conversations about the racial and colonizing history of our country with my children when we read these stories someday, while still enjoying all the wonderful parts of family closeness, hard work, perseverance, faith, love, and enjoying the simple things.
I guess my concern is that nearly all the voices I have seen raised in outrage and protest about this issue have been white…which means we don’t really know how if feels to look at this topic from a Native American or African American perspective. And the hurtful attitudes that caused the award to be changed are not just in the past, but still remain very painful and real to these communities. I wonder if a little girl of African American or Native American heritage who read those parts in the stories and saw the author was honored with a special award might think, “So does that mean I don’t matter?” So that is where I can see some justification to the decision, though I’m still not sure I agree with it. After all, if we only name awards after people with no moral failures or blind spots, we soon will have only nameless awards. 🙂
I think Andrew and others also make a very important point about that, if we only try to change names and sanitize history and don’t actually do anything about the roots of racism that still frame so much of our society, we are being ignorant and hypocrites.2q11
So, these are just some thoughts I’m mulling over as I continue to learn and grow–with help from people like all of you! Thank you so much for your insights, Janet, and for giving us the opportunity to talk about this.
Just a follow-up: I just came across this article through a racial reconciliation group I’m part of, and it connects to my comment above so I thought I’d share it here. Always helpful to hear from those who come from a different perspective than we do, I think: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/writers-perspective/reading-laura-ingalls-wilder-while-black
Kiersti, thanks for pointing out this article. It’s always good to hear from others who will see the situation differently.
Brilliant, Janet! Thank you. I taught Huck Finn to juniors for years. I censored the language when I read it aloud but I felt it essential to teach works that showed characters growing in their understanding that color of skin should not matter in how we see and treat others. Twain does that masterfully.
Janet, I read Huck Finn when I was seven – and never again – and I still remember a character describing a steamboat explosion:
“No one was hurt. Killed a n*****.”
* That one line summed up the evil of racism for me, all those decades ago. The censoring of his work – on the grounds of racism – is so very, very ironic.
Janet Holm McHenry
Andrew, seven is too young to read Huck Finn. Junior high is too young to read it. It works well with high school juniors bc. they’re studying U.S. history that year. It takes a discerning reader and a discerning teacher to help young people see the shift in Huck’s [first person narrative] thinking about Jim. It’s subtle.
Janet, I won’t dispute that seven is too young for HF. My teachers were kind of desperate; I was a precocious reader, and they were trying to keep me away from getting bored and turning to hooliganism. (It didn’t work.)
* But I read Twain and Kipling and Saroyan, and the histories of Toland and Lord and SLA Marshall. I knew about the USS Monitor before I knew what a hall monitor was.
* Much of that reading stayed with me, and formed a context for life, as poorly understood as it may have been.
Janet Holm McHenry
Awesome–you swallowed it all up. My husband was like that as a kid–still is. Write with passion as you’ve read with passion. Blessings!
Blessings back, Janet. I’ve enjoyed this conversation, and am thankful to Janet Grant and the Books and Such team for keeping this venue going, and making it possible.
Tonight I will be bringing a son of my heart and of the faith to his first every writer’s conference. I mentioned helping him to get ready in the previous blog post. Last night he had a fried of his who is another young black man film my husband and I for a testimony film he is making for Todd, or GM (God’s Man) as I often call him.
You know I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. We lived in Wisconsin in a predominantly white area, so when the older black man was with Huck, it taught me love in spite of color, because Huck’s own father was a drunk and abusive to him, while the black man was kind. Seems weird I know, but as a child I remembered this, and still do.
With Todd, and his six siblings, that all call me Mama B, I cannot completely describe all that our relationship has brought to both families.
Betsy, you’re awesome. When I grow up I want to be like you.
Janet Holm McHenry
Here’s another thread . . . four years ago I took my African-American valedictorian girl from the high school where I taught to Mt. Hermon. She was already writing novels–an amazing writer I had no clue how to coach. She was WAY beyond me, haha! When it was all over, she said, “Mrs. McHenry, why aren’t there characters of color in novels?” I couldn’t answer that question. Well, yeah, I know the business answer . . . but it’s still not right.
Janet, you expressed what I wanted to say but couldn’t find the words. Thank you for speaking so boldly yet rationally and non-confrontationally (is that a word?). I agree with this wholeheartedly: “We must remember who we were so we all can strive to be better versions of ourselves.” AMEN!
Laura Ingalls Wilder lived in a different age where political correctness was unheard of. I expect to her it was normal to write the way she did about native Indians and minstrels. I think to change the name of the award after all the enjoyment she has brought to children’s literature is somehow very sad…
This popularity of rewriting history by tearing down statues, renaming awards, towns, and schools is frightening to me. Yes, I know it’s been done before, but whenever anyone sets out to change the past, we forget the hard-fought lessons we’ve learned. We forget all those who have fought to change our situation. We forget all the steps we’ve taken to get where we are now and eventually there’ll come a point where we, as someone once said, will be “doomed to repeat” that history.
Thanks to each of you for voicing your thoughts on the name-change for this writing prize. Answers aren’t easy as to the best way for our country to move forward yet not forgetting its racist past. We all need to wrestle this issue to ground–together, with big hearts and open minds.
They were savages like the nickname suggests. it was a thing of its time ok we cant just erase history because it hurts our poor little feelings. I know I probably seem racist with my first comment but its true the Indians weren’t exactly gentle. they were freaking awesome warriors. most people that comment on here are all educated and have good educated answers that have a good point and mine doesn’t but ill say this, “those who don’t know their history are destined to repeat it”. I know my history and i know we shouldn’t call anybody names or treat any one different because of their size or color. Just saying back then they didn’t know that and doing crap like removing awards from authors and “banning” books isn’t going to erase the past or erase racism in fact it makes it worse I’m not saying ignore racism and it will go away but don’t remind people about it and make people mad about it and think its there when its not. i think there’s some really stupid crap going on in this world to make people want to ban books. I say its a thing of its time. Back then there was racism so yeah if i wrote a book now about this time i would write about what’s going on now and if something was wrong and I didn’t know it wouldn’t make me bad just ignorant that is what they were ignorant they did not know what they were doing and saying and I’m sure Laura Ingalls knew later on that she was racist. you know she was right though they had black faces with raggedy clothes and they were mean to her and her family scaring them like that regardless whether she was on their land or not. i have no other way to word this to be able to knock it into peoples heads. I apologize if i offended anyone