The quest for the “universally embraced” author
In July, I wrote a post called “Punishing Laura Ingalls Wilder.” This post was about the recent decision by the Association for Library Service to Children to change the name of its Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.
The name change was made, according to this document from then ALSC President Nina Lindsay to the group’s board of directors, because “Laura Ingalls Wilder has long held a complex legacy, as her books (the Little House on the Prairie series) reflect racist and anti-Native sentiments and are not universally embraced.”
My mind fixes on “not universally embraced” over the words “racist” and “anti-Native,” since those two elements would preclude the approval, and I ask myself, So is that what this is all about? Being approved by all? No dissension? No variety of opinion? No provocation?
Wouldn’t that make for boring reading?
Diversity in literature is what I would rather see. Latino perspectives. Native perspectives. African perspectives. European perspectives. Historical perspectives. Contemporary perspectives. I want to read it all.
And I would think the ALSC does, too. Here’s what Lindsay wrote in a bio on the organization’s website, “At its best, the public library enables a freedom of the mind that is foundational to social equity.” Sounds like an open and appreciative mind. Sounds like someone who values all perspectives.
So why the snub to Wilder? Why deny inclusion to Wilder? Because someone somewhere disagrees with her perspective? Because someone somewhere in the universe doesn’t embrace her?
If the ALSC wishes to honor only an author who is universally embraced, well, no thank you. And good luck finding one.