Prairie Fires

Prairie Fires

The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Book - 2017
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WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW 'S 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

The first comprehensive historical biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved author of the Little House on the Prairie books

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 Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser--the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House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.

Publisher: New York, NY :, Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company,, 2017
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781627792769
Branch Call Number: 921 WIL
Characteristics: xii, 625 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map ; 25 cm

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22METZ
Jul 06, 2018

Lots of history most people don't have a clue about. Wish there would have been a family tree drawn up for Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her books were not all fiction. She only told the good parts. Life was hard and brutal back then. Would not have made a good read for children who could not comprehend life back then. This book was more about the dynamics between Rose Wilder and Laura Wilder. It could have been a lot shorter. As someone else commented this book would have been better served to readers in two volumes. One about Laura and her life. The other about Rose.

d
dixondog44
Jun 08, 2018

I'm happy other people liked it but I hated it.

The whole second half of the book was a back and forth between Lane's right wing nut job ideology and the author's left wing nut job dogma. Struck me as a microcosm of America today. Too bad Lane is not with us today. She and the author deserve to live together.

I only finished it because I grew up very close to Walnut Grove, MN.

Waste of time for me.

Just my opinion.

t
TheresaAJ
May 24, 2018

This tome (it has 85 pages of footnotes) requires a serious commitment by the reader. Fraser has written a comprehensive biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane. She describes the creation process for the Little House books and makes a case that it took the talents and efforts of both women to create the iconic series. Fraser also explores the social context and history during the women's lifetimes and exploits the myth that a small farmer could ever make a living by hard work and self-reliance. The book ends with a very clear picture of the difficult and tortured relationship between Laura and Rose. If you prefer the version of pioneer life described in Wilder's book, this is probably not the tome for you.

r
raechick
May 05, 2018

I am glad I read this biography. It helped me understand Laura Ingalls Wilder and her motivation for writing. I was one of the thousands of little girls who wanted to grow up and be Laura. As I child I didn't understand why these books were in the Fiction section of the library.
But now that I know how the books relate to reality I am glad for the choices Laura (and Rose) made.

This book also contains biographical information on Rose Wilder Lane that is not easily available elsewhere. She would probably do better in this century with access to better healthcare.

I appreciated the references to authors contemporary to Laura. And, the effort to understand the societal conditions she as she grew up. It's hard to believe this work would receive the Pulitzer Prize if it was heavily biased or inaccurate.

x
xiaojunbpl12
Apr 04, 2018

A different biography than I’d expected. My interest in protagonist Laura Wilder was overpowered by her daughter Rose who was, like eye floaters, to dazzle and disturb.
Trying to shake off ridiculing the lady writers, I don’t feel cheated for being viscerally touched at certain points, my mind can focus on the landscape (nature, human, culture, economics, politics, literature) that the book masterfully paints.

Nevertheless it’s the most important (crushed my kaleidoscopic imagery of a romanticized pioneer life) and objective (journalism, political & economic movements involving many figures known and yet known to me) book I’ve read on frontiers lives.

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blondiebythebay
Mar 19, 2018

I was disappointed to learn that the series of Little House books was fiction. But I am an adult and I got over it. I recommend this book to any adult who was a fan of the Little House series as a child.

j
jazpur
Feb 27, 2018

I have long admired much beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House books.When a new book by Caroline Fraser was touted as being the 'definitive' biography, I had great expectations . Misplaced, unfortunately. Much more time should have been taken by the author to analyse, digest and consolidate her research. There is a great deal of information, at times, contradictory. The historical background is shaky.More judicious editing would have helped. When she explores the fraught relationship between Laura and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, the narrative bogs down.It becomes evident there is enough information about Rose and her career for a separate biography. Two books would have been better than one. Rose's influence on her mother's writing has long been speculated. In this biography her flamboyant overbearing character comes across strongly and makes the title misleading. There is an almost equal amount of information about Rose. The photographs are interesting and the text is supported by pages of verifying annotations. Worthy. Earnest. It is clear too that the Michael Langdon TV series has done much to add to the rosy haze that now surrounds the lives of the Ingalls and Wilder families and their neighbours; myths and legends which blur the hardships lived through by America's mid-western pioneers. Laura herself was selective. She did not want to write about the grim reality. Rather she wanted to encourage young readers.

j
Jgrooms
Jan 27, 2018

This is an engaging dual bio of Wilder and Lane. However, lets be honest, Fraser's background is literary. She would have done well to stick to her strength. Certainly a biographer brings historical context to the subject/s, instead she goes into historical 'geography' for which she clearly lacks the tools. For example, the presentation of the pioneering era is incredibly flawed and clearly biased toward an environmentalist approach. To state that pre 1900 farming practices resulted in climate change is absurd. Yes, poor Almanzo caused the very drought that ruined him. Did those farming practices change the ecology? Certainly it did. One may ask, if the plow caused drought, then I gather modern irrigation practices should cause more annual average rain? That's a joke. Much like Fraser's presentation of 19 th century farming.

It is just these sort of overwrought environmental 'crusaders' who draw the wrath of the climate deniers.

Fraser continues to butcher history & make sloppy mistakes along the way. Missouri Bushwackers become a “posse”?
The era known as Bleeding Kansas as a prelude to the Civil War becomes a “proxy war.” Both historically wrong and the word usage is incorrect. I could go on, but you get the point. Read carefully and watchout for the bias, which isn’t too hard to spot as it’s as thick as molasses during a Dakota blizzard.

v
vickmeister
Dec 28, 2017

As a lifetime fan of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, I am always interested in seeing material that takes a fresh look at Laura, the person, the personal stories that made her way into her books, and the influence of her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. This was a riveting read, placing Laura and her extended family in the context of the broader history happening around them, whether it be regionally, elsewhere in America, or far further afield; and how national events impacted individual lives. Similar in various ways to "Libertarians on the Prairie" by Christine Woodside, which explores the complex and often combative relationship between Laura and her daughter Rose and speculates just how dominant a role Rose had in the creation of the stories that ended up in Laura's books, yet I found this work to be much richer. It was fascinating to read about the various stages of the settlement of the west overlaid over what we know about the Ingalls and Wilder family experiences. Equally engrossing is seeing how events colored Laura's and Rose's personalities so deeply, leading to deeply ingrained character traits and reactive psychological behaviors that seemed to be based in long-ago incidents never forgotten or satisfactorily dealt with on an emotional level. In particular, the relationship between these two women remains an intriguing tangle, with Rose emerging in a particularly unflattering light. You will not look at Laura and her stories in quite the same way again.

b
bonnylass54
Dec 02, 2017

On NYT Ten Best Books of 2017 list.

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Jgrooms
Jan 27, 2018

In the 1890s...”human caused climate change combined with natural weather patterns to wreak absolute havoc.”

Wo source citation. Because there is none. There is no scientific source to support human caused climate changes were occuring in 1890.

t
thebritlass
Dec 20, 2017

It is beyond all human power to tell all the facts....Facts are infinite in number. The truth is a meaning underlying them; you tell the truth by selecting the facts which illustrate it.

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