Check It Out: Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser

Mar 27, 2018

This is Kelsey Patterson with the Sioux City Public Library and you’re listening to Check It Out.

Today, I’m recommending Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser. Hailed by the New York Times Book Review as one of the 10 Best Books of the Year for 2017, Prairie Fires draws on Wilder’s unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, land, and financial records to give fresh insight into the life of a woman so beloved to many. Millions of readers of the Little House on the Prairie books like myself would like to believe that we know Laura Ingalls—the feisty 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—until now. Author 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 one of the most influential childhood epics of pioneer life, she also chronicles Wilder's tumultuous relationship with her journalist daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, setting the record straight regarding the ghostwriting rumors that have swirled around the books. For all the hardship they describe, The Little House books, are odes to the pioneer spirit, portraying it as triumphant against all odds. But Wilder’s real life was so much harder and grittier; a story of relentless struggle, rootlessness, and poverty. It was only in her sixties, after losing nearly everything during the Depression, that she turned to children’s books, recasting her impoverished childhood as a celebratory vision of homesteading—and achieving fame and fortune in the process. Prairie Fires is a truly compelling and moving biography of one of the most cherished children’s authors of our time. Check out Prairie Fires and other fascinating biographies like it at the Sioux City Public Library.

Support for Check It Out comes from Avery Brothers.