107 NE Monroe Peoria, Illinois 61602-1070

Is Laura Ingalls Wilder Obsolete? with author Pamela Smith Hill

On Saturday, Februrary 9 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at North Branch, Pamela Smith Hill, editor of Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography and author of Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life, visits Peoria to share her deep knowledge of one of the country’s most gifted and important authors in her talk “Little House on the Prairie: Is Laura Ingalls Wilder Obsolete?”.

Recently the American Library Association (ALA) removed the name of Laura Ingalls Wilder from an award for children’s literature. According to Hill, “ALA’s action didn’t come as a surprise. In 1995, a member of the ALA’s Newbery Medal committee noted, “…let’s face it, no story about a pioneer boy in the West has a hope of winning a prize today, especially if he doesn’t have a 1990s consciousness about how his home was taken from the Indians.” She added that the committee likely wouldn’t consider Wilder’s work worthy of Newbery consideration because it was culturally insensitive for contemporary readers.

The ALA’s Wilder decision also relates to the role of historical fiction: should it attempt to present the culture and social conventions of the period it depicts or should it instead re-create the past in the image of contemporary society and its current social conventions?

This dilemma becomes even more important for fiction directed at young readers. Should historical fiction for this age group instruct and teach? Or should it stimulate questions about difficult issues? Wilder introduced a new kind of historical realism in fiction for young readers of the 1930s and 1940s, a realism that was intrinsically complex, despite the apparent simplicity of her prose. Pamela Smith Hill will delve into the complex issues surrounding the work of Laura Ingalls Wilder with the audience and explore what it means for literature when it is judged with modern eyes.

Free and open to the public. Books will be available for sale and signing. A portion of sales will benefit the Friends of Peoria Public Library.

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