American history, children's books, Culture, intriguing authors, the business of books

Little House Books victim of woke hysteria.

There have been, throughout history, many great books written; books which have rightfully earned their spot on shelves as timeless classics. If we took a microscope to each and every one of those books with the express intent of removing any and all books with language in them which offends any particular group of people, we would have to remove the vast majority of books from the shelves.

If there was ever a set of books which finds me incredulous at the idea that they are harmful, it’s Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series. Our children love those books, and we have no intention of removing them from our shelves, despite being well aware of the “offensiveness” found within their pages. The Association of Library Services to Children cannot abide Wilder’s handling of Native Americans in her stories:

Laura Ingalls Wilder was on the brink of having an award named in her honor, from the Association for Library Service to Children, when in 1952 a reader complained to the publisher of “Little House on the Prairie” about what the reader found to be a deeply offensive statement about Native Americans.

The reader pointed specifically to the book’s opening chapter, “Going West.” The 1935 tale of a pioneering family seeking unvarnished, unoccupied land opens with a character named Pa, modeled after Wilder’s own father, who tells of his desire to go “where the wild animals lived without being afraid.” Where “the land was level, and there were no trees.”

And where “there were no people. Only Indians lived there.”

Although the complaint didn’t spark action at the time, the American Library Association has decided to make things right:

Now, after years of complaints, the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, says it voted Saturday to strip Wilder’s name from the award.

The decision makes Wilder the latest target of efforts to purge from the cultural landscape symbols that honor historical figures who owned slaves, espoused racist views or engaged in racist practices.

Books, as well as their authors, are products of the time and place in which they are set and in which the author lives. All of these elements are an important part of what makes books rich and interesting, providing depth and context of history. If we strip away all evidence of cultural and linguistic markers which are out of step with our modern sensibilities, we lose far more than we gain.

In exchange for the temporary and shallow pride of being able to signal our postmodern virtue, we miss out on the opportunity to discuss the why, hows, and wherefores of the cultural past. We miss out on the opportunity to explain to our children cultural and linguistic evolution, including the things which we find objectionable today.

In our home, we do not shield our children from books which contain derogatory racial terms, including or even especially terms which may be personally offensive to us as a black family. Why should we forgo an opportunity for them to learn, grow, and acknowledge the amount of progress our country has made in its treatment of black Americans, something we believe is generally true against the recent backdrop of inflammatory headlines?

When reading the Little House books, or Peter Pan, or any number of books which refer to Native Americans in ways that our current cultural iteration finds offensive, our children inevitably ask questions. These questions open the door to dialogue and understanding.

Further, I find it offensive to hold authors or anyone else who lived 100 years ago to a standard of behavior which didn’t exist when they were alive so as to retroactively smear their work and exact punitive redress. Laura Ingalls Wilder was a product of her time, and her books reflected that.

To publicly flog her for a series of books which have an imperfect presentation of current ideology, while ignoring the virtues and morals within their pages is just another example of how “wokeness” is killing our humanity, our ability to enjoy life and our ability to enjoy truly great literature.

More than that, to emphasize a cultural negative at the expense of all the hard work, family togetherness, faith, charity and community the Little House books offer does more than shield us from the bad. It shields us from the good as well.

 

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joys of reading, the business of books, Uncategorized

Kindle strikes again.

I am an avid library patron. I try more often than not to read books with pages, patronize bookstores, and generally be a good little bibliophile. Books are important. Despite imagining myself fighting the good fight against a digital takeover of reading for myself and for my kids, I just – like 5 minutes ago- downloaded My Man Jeeves onto my Kindle for 0.99. I am not beyond a great deal.

I recently re-blogged posts (here and here) which illustrate the education I’ve been obtaining on Amazon’s book sales pricing and practices. There is definitely cause to pause and consider alternatives to Amazon when purchasing books. I’ve been more careful about taking those things into consideration. I even bought a Barnes and Noble membership which isn’t a complete waste because I buy almost all of our kids’ assigned literature books from Barnes and Noble to the tune of about 12 books a year.

Nevertheless, I own a Kindle. Kindle makes it very easy to download and store a boat load of books at reasonable prices, which makes it very easy to open it, shop, and click my way to a great read in a convenient and inexpensive format.  I often find good books there for free, such as a book I recently reviewed, Miss Maitland Private Secretary.

The downside is that is very easy to nickel and dime my way to spending too much on books when it would be easier to go to the library and check them out. Thankfully, my genuine love of the library creates a very low risk of that happening. When it comes to the value of local libraries, I am a true believer. As such, I rarely purchase a book to download on the Kindle more than once a month.

My Kindle library still isn’t as big as my physical library, but the ease with which I can amass books to read later means the Kindle library could rival the book shelf in the near future. Ease of use, an extensive list of titles and rock bottom prices makes it easier to buy books from Amazon.

I always buy our kids books with physical pages to turn, or check them out from the library because the last thing they need at this point is another screen, even if it’s for a good use such as reading good books. That also keeps me in libraries and books stores more often than I might be if we encouraged them to read digital books. However, I am not a paper book purist, nor even on an all out boycott of Amazon books. I do however, like to consider these things when I spend my money.

This bibliographic stream of consciousness brought to you courtesy of Kindle, My Man Jeeves, and the fact that I am a sucker for a 0.99 book, which together inspired these thoughts.

the business of books

Will Barnes and Noble Actually Fail?

Krysta continues her discussion on the possibility of Amazon eventually signing the death warrant of Barnes and Noble.

I’ve been giving this more thought and while my Barnes and Noble experiences haven’t always been stellar, there is value in having actual, physical bookstores in areas that wouldn’t have any but for Barnes and Noble. I am blessed to be in an area where I have options other than Barnes and Noble, but not everyone does.

I don’t want to absolve Barnes and Noble of any responsibility for their own demise but as a logical consistency, I should shop much less at Amazon for the same reasons I try to avoid Walmart.

Still mulling this thing over, but it’s worth considering what types of business practices we want to support with our dollars.