Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder
by Caroline Fraser
Simon & Schuster
Release Date: November 21, 2017
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Hardly anyone of my generation grew up unaware of the Little House on the Prairie television series which ran from the mid-1970s until the early 1980s. The inspiration behind the show was, of course, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s collection of autobiographical children’s’ books published shortly after the Great Depression.
Caroline Fraser’s biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, published little more than a month ago, has been widely praised and was selected one of the New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2017.
Third-party reviews and links:
- New York Times (Patricia Nelson Limerick) review dated Nov 20, 2017
- Star Tribune (Hamilton Cain) review dated Nov 17, 2017
- USA Today (Emily Gray Tedrowe) review dated Dec 11, 2017
- The Slate (Laura Miller) review dated Dec 7, 2017
- The Dallas Morning News (Amy Brady) review dated Dec 7, 2017
- Caroline Fraser’s personal website
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From the publisher:
“Millions of readers of Little House on the Prairie believe they know Laura Ingalls―the pioneer girl who survived blizzards and near-starvation on the Great Plains, and the woman who wrote the famous autobiographical books. But the true saga of her life has never been fully told. Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser―the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House series―masterfully fills in the gaps in Wilder’s biography. Revealing the grown-up story behind the most influential childhood epic of pioneer life, she also chronicles Wilder’s tumultuous relationship with her journalist daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, setting the record straight regarding charges of ghostwriting that have swirled around the books.
The Little House books, for all the hardships they describe, are paeans to the pioneer spirit, portraying it as triumphant against all odds. But Wilder’s real life was harder and grittier than that, a story of relentless struggle, rootlessness, and poverty. It was only in her sixties, after losing nearly everything in the Great Depression, that she turned to children’s books, recasting her hardscrabble childhood as a celebratory vision of homesteading―and achieving fame and fortune in the process, in one of the most astonishing rags-to-riches episodes in American letters.
Spanning nearly a century of epochal change, from the Indian Wars to the Dust Bowl, Wilder’s dramatic life provides a unique perspective on American history and our national mythology of self-reliance. With fresh insights and new discoveries, Prairie Fires reveals the complex woman whose classic stories grip us to this day.”