The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder
By Caroline Fraser
The first comprehensive historical biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved author of the Little House on the Prairie book series
Millions of readers of the 'Little House' books believe they know Laura Ingalls Wilder - the pioneer girl who survived blizzards and near-starvation on the Great Plains as her family chased their American dream. But the true story of her life has never been fully told.
Drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries and public records, Caroline Fraser masterfully fills in the gaps in Wilder's biography, uncovering the grown-up story behind the best-loved childhood epic of pioneer life.
Set against nearly a century of unimaginable change, from the Homestead Act and the Indian Wars to the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Wilder's life was full of drama and adversity. Settling on the frontier amid land-rush speculation, her family endured Biblical tribulations of locusts and drought, poverty and want, before she left at the age of eighteen to marry Almanzo. This is where the books end, but there is so much more to tell; deep in debt after a series of personal tragedies, Laura and Almanzo uprooted themselves once again, crisscrossing the country, taking menial jobs to support the family. In middle age, she began writing a farm advice column, prodded by her journalist daughter Rose. And at the age of sixty, fearing the loss of almost everything in the Depression, she turned to children's books, recasting her extraordinarily difficult childhood as a triumphal vision of homesteading - achieving fame and fortune in the process.
Laura Ingalls Wilder's life is one of the most astonishing rags-to-riches stories in American letters. Offering fresh insight and new discoveries, Prairie Fires reveals the complex woman who defined the American pioneer character, and whose artful blend of fact and fiction grips us to this day.
Caroline Fraser is the editor of the Library of America edition of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books, and the author of Rewilding the World and God's Perfect Child. Her writing has appeared in the New York Review of Books, New Yorker, Atlantic, Los Angeles Times and London Review of Books, among other publications. She lives in New Mexico.
- Other details
- Publication date:
23 Nov 2017
- Page count:
In the twenty-first century, the tense and secret authorial partnership between Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane has emerged as the most complex and fascinating psychological saga of mother-daughter collaboration in American literary history. Caroline Fraser's deeply researched and stimulating biography analyzes their controversial relationship and places Wilder's influential fiction in the contexts of other myths of pioneer women and the frontier — Elaine Showalter, author of A Jury of Her Peers and The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe
A fantastic book. We've long understood the Little House series to be a great American story, but Caroline Fraser brings it unprecedented new context, as she masterfully chronicles the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family alongside the complicated history of our nation. Prairie Fires represents a significant milestone in our understanding of Wilder's life, work, and legacy — Wendy McClure, author of The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie
[This new biography is] just as gripping as the original novels . . . As pacy and vivid as one of Wilder's own narratives, this surprising biography is immensely revealing both about Wilder and about America's founding myths — Eleanor Mills, Sunday Times
The sweep of the story is magnificent — Laura Freeman, The Times