Author Topic: Laura Ingalls Wilder's Name Taken Off Book Award  (Read 487 times)

Offline Lynn2000

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Why are we talking about banning books? The Association of Library Service to Children renamed an award, that's all. It's now the Childrenís Literature Legacy Award. Wilder isn't harmed by this, nobody's saying you can't read her books. The only impact is that her name won't be in a press release twice a year.

It's not the end of the world, we don't need to exaggerate it. But I think it's a shame that they chose to deal with the (historically accurate) problematic content in her books by just removing her name from the award. Instead, in a press release twice a year, they could encourage adults and children to discuss problematic content in books and gain a more nuanced understanding of the world. Reading is supposed to make you think and learn and grow, that's why it's promoted, especially for children.

And, I do think she's harmed by it. This group is an authority, and some people are going to take this as a recommendation from an authority that they should not read Wilder's books, or let their children read them. For those who are librarians or teachers, that could mean a lot of kids who are not exposed to Wilder's books unless they stumble across them on their own. You know there will be some school administrators who say, "Just pull them from the library, we don't want any complaints from parents." And yeah, it's dumb because people should think for themselves and read the books for themselves and make their own decisions--but you know a certain portion won't. They'll just go with what the authority suggests. And, sometimes these things start to snowball, and it becomes trendy to do the same thing (downgrade an author or book series), and the effect spreads. Do I think Wilder's books are in danger of becoming extinct? No, not at all. But I think it's a worrying sign that a body dedicated to promoting reading and its supposed benefits, especially for children, would rather just sidestep a very relevant and enlightening conversation about a book's contents.
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Offline Winterlight

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I asked a friend who has her PhD in children's lit with a concentration in LIW if I could quote her on this. She agreed.

"As a Wilder specialist and childrenís lit scholar, Iím very glad this award is going to be more inclusive.
And it doesnít negate Wilder scholarship, or the textsí significance, mind. I can personally attest to that. In fact, the need to reassess the award is a solid reflection of just how complicated, fascination, relevant, and important these texts continue to be. It gives us a great opportunity to see them in continual dialogue with new historical contexts, as they have been from the start."
If wisdomís ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.
Caroline Lake Ingalls
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Offline AngelicGamer

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Here's this year's winner about LIW and, about half way through the video, she talks about writing in her / our time: https://youtu.be/EGWdrMpvynk. It's very insightful.

As for what I think with if it's right or wrong to take her name of the award - I think it's right for the people behind the award. I think it was right for the reward in general, considering all the types of authors there are in the world that could be honored with this award. We can still read and talk about her work, what's wrong with it, and celebrate her that way.

Side note: This has been talked a lot about in various book clubs I follow on FB and it's how I knew about the video. This is the one place that I felt safe enough to express my views.


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Offline MrTango

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I feel like ignoring problematic attitudes, even in the past, is dangerous. I'd much rather us be able to have conversations about the issues than pretend they didn't happen.

What are they going to do with Huckleberry Finn?

This.  I'm going to encourage my daughter to read LIW's books, Huck Finn, and such once she's old enough to do so.  Then, when she asks why they talk about people that way, I'll use it as an opportunity to teach her that people used to think that those sorts of ideas and ways or relating to "other" people were okay, but now we know that those things aren't okay.

That way, she can learn that it's okay to change the way we think about things when new information or knowledge is available.  That's a concept that I think far too many people don't get.
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Offline Kiwi Cupcake

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I know we're not talking about actual banning but if we were, all books can be banned. There's always something to offend, even books that were published just this morning.

I remember reading Grimm's Fairytales for the first time as a teenager. Woah. Sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, and more. I was shocked. These horrible things are in fairytales?! But it forced me to remember that's the way it was and think of what's changed and, sadly, what hasn't. I still read them in spite of the problems because the stories lasted for centuries for a reason.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2018, 12:33:11 pm by Kiwi Cupcake »
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Offline Athersgeo

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and I know a couple years back there was one edition that took out every mention of "n*****" and replaced it with "slave."

Ugh. I'm not sure which is worse, banning a book or changing the author's words. Twain chose the words he used for a reason. And though those words are not acceptable for that usage today, that doesn't change how they were used or perceived at the time they were written and to change them is tantamount to trying to whitewash the past.

I don't see how ignoring or denying the past helps anything. I can only imagine how the things we say and do today will be interpreted 50 or 100 years from now.

With this, I think it very much depends on the author and the intent.

In the case of Twain, I agree completely - I think his text should be left as-is. I'd say the same thing about To Kill a Mockingbird as well. The point IS the language.

In the case of someone like, for example, Agatha Christie, though, I think there is a reason to update the text. A casual idiom of the English through to probably the 1960s was "worked like n******" - meaning to say that the person concerned had worked very hard indeed. Updating that to "worked like trojans" or even just "worked hard" doesn't alter the text because the word isn't the point, it's the hard work.

Of course, you can also go way too far in updating things. Like the rather awful updating of Enid Blyton that did some terrible things to the currency amounts (converting them into decimal but taking no account of inflation so you had characters being delighted by being given £1 to spend for the week...), or Elinor M Brent Dyer whose text not only had references to the n-word excised but also any/all references to smoking (and the use of the word charabanc was updated too but I'm in two minds on that one seeing as EBD upgraded her own vocabulary on that score!)
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guest121

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Does charabanc have offensive connotations, or was it just outdated/obsolete?

Offline Lynn2000

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In the case of someone like, for example, Agatha Christie, though, I think there is a reason to update the text. A casual idiom of the English through to probably the 1960s was "worked like n******" - meaning to say that the person concerned had worked very hard indeed. Updating that to "worked like trojans" or even just "worked hard" doesn't alter the text because the word isn't the point, it's the hard work.

Yes, something I didn't realize until recently was that Agatha Christie had a book titled "Ten Little N*****" which was first retitled "Ten Little Indians" and is now called "And Then There Were None." In the story a group of strangers are summoned to an isolated house and sequentially bumped off as revenge for crimes they have committed. Agatha Christie used a lot of nursery rhymes in her work (I assume for the creepy juxtaposition of a child's song/rhyme with murder) and this particular story is built around a gruesome song in which a group of ten little... people is picked off in rhyming ways. "And then there were nine... and then there were eight..." and so on. The rhyme plays into how each character in the book is killed.

I saw a recent TV movie adaptation, and they still had the rhyme but I forget what word they used--not the N-word, but I can't remember if they went with "Indians" or used some third term. You do need to have the rhyme for the structure of the story, but the exact term used for the group doesn't really matter.

In this case, I think it's important to realize that there once was a time and place when you could publish a classy, mainstream book that had the N-word in the title and throughout. As part of a song that children really used to sing while jump-roping or whatever--so Christie was reflecting real-life common usage at the time. So that could be in an introduction to the book. But then, you remove the offensive term from the actual story, because it doesn't change anything fundamental, and would certainly serve only as a major distraction from the plot.

guest121

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The book was titled "Ten Little Soldiers" at one point, so that may be the name used in the adaptation you're thinking of.
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Offline GloryAndCrumpets

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I know they're not banning her books, they've just removed her name from the award, but it still bothers me. I guess I feel like they're basically saying "We don't feel that her or her books are worth honoring anymore," which I think is a mistake. As other people have said in this thread, there are problematic attitudes in the books, but they are such a small part of it and I think they are very much overshadowed by all the good things in the books and by the overwhelmingly positive legacy they left. I feel like when you start removing people's names from honors/awards/buildings/etc. for reasons like this (exhibiting the common attitudes of their time), it's much easier to then start "erasing" (for lack of a better word) these people and their achievements.
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Offline AngelicGamer

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I know they're not banning her books, they've just removed her name from the award, but it still bothers me. I guess I feel like they're basically saying "We don't feel that her or her books are worth honoring anymore," which I think is a mistake. As other people have said in this thread, there are problematic attitudes in the books, but they are such a small part of it and I think they are very much overshadowed by all the good things in the books and by the overwhelmingly positive legacy they left. I feel like when you start removing people's names from honors/awards/buildings/etc. for reasons like this (exhibiting the common attitudes of their time), it's much easier to then start "erasing" (for lack of a better word) these people and their achievements.

There are other ways to honor authors without naming them to awards. Read and talk about her books. Hell, do that for anyone who has had their name removed from something recently that you disagree with. There are more ways to keep people alive through stories than through one award. There's still a ton of museums named after her and, as far as I know, her bust is still in the Missouri state capital. Did anybody who doesn't have a concentration in children literature or something of the like really know about this award before they renamed it? I didn't and I bet a lot of others didn't either.


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Offline Athersgeo

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Does charabanc have offensive connotations, or was it just outdated/obsolete?

Apart from a reference in a semi-obscene Stranglers song (Peaches is the title of that, if youíre interested!) itís just a term that was very outdated. It appears in a book that was published in the middle 1930s and I think it was old fashioned even then. The modern reprint substituted coach instead - which is perhaps not entirely accurate in terms of a swap, but IS what was meant (itís a vehicle conveying a bunch of school girls to camp!) and coach or motor coach is the term for that sort of trip that EBD uses in every other book in the series, so... ☺️
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guest121

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Heck, I'm related to a bunch of Confederate officers, and I'm more than happy to see their names taken off of stuff and statues removed. If they started revising the Civil War out of history curricula or banning their writings from libraries, I'd have a big problem with that because, as above, history/forget/doomed/repeat.

I think it's normal for the way we remember people to evolve over time -- even people in our own lives.  I know a lot more about my grandparents now than when I was a kid, and looking back I find them...problematic. My DH wanted a family name on our baby-name shortlist that happened to also be the same as my granddad. That was a hard "no" from me.

My grandma loved him. He gave my mom life. These are wonderful contributions to the world. But I did *not* want my child to have his name. It was not the right way to remember him. Too much baggage.

That's how I see this. Nobody said Wilder was a bad writer or a bad person. But the award committee feels that her baggage is a bad fit for this prize.

Makes sense to me.
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Offline thebushiestbeaver

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I was actually just pondering this recently. The Little House books were my favourite growing up. I read them over and over again until the spines fell apart, then my mum taped them up and I read them until the tape fell apart. I really want to read them to my baby when he gets older, but there are obviously problematic areas (Ma saying that the only good Indian is a dead Indian, Pa performing in a minstrel show as a "darkie" etc). I think it'll be a kid-friendly way to talk about some very serious issues, without getting into the atrocities and the horror. It's an incredible series and I hope kids are still encouraged to read the books.
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