cover image Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder

Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder

Edited by Nancy Tystad Koupal. South Dakota Historical Society, $29.95 (277p) ISBN 978-1-941813-08-9

Published in 2014, Pioneer Girl, the handwritten memoir that was the basis of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s widely popular Little House on the Prairie series, emerged as a surprise bestseller. Editor Koupal (Our Landlady), director of the South Dakota Historical Society Press, here gathers essays that reflect on Wilder’s work, focusing on Pioneer Girl but including the finished novels. The essays discuss the writing process of both Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane, Wilder’s daughter and editor; the publication history of the Little House books; their historical context; and the books as myth and literature. There’s some overlap, but the essays offer a rich diversity of subject matter. The stronger pieces include those by Elizabeth Jameson, who highlights the harrowing context of child labor, violence, and sexual threat in Pioneer Girl, and Paula M. Nelson, who examines Wilder’s now outmoded understanding of women’s place in society. The essays strike a balance between hagiography and exposé; all are even-handed in their treatment of Wilder’s life and writing, not glossing over views she held that clash with modern sensibilities. These informative essays will be of considerable interest to Wilder fans and scholars. (May)