The South Dakota Historical Society Press is hoping that lightning will strike twice at BookExpo: this year, the small press is promoting Pioneer Girl Perpectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Nancy Tystad Koupal, 150 years after Wilder’s birth on February 7, 1867. Koupal isn’t only the editor of this collection of 11 essays examining the life and times of the Little House on the Prairie books: she is the director of the press, which published, in 2014, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, edited by Pamela Nettleton Hill. That book was an instant bestseller, selling out before its 15,000 initial print run was released. It became the get of the 2014 holiday season, even though it clocked in at 472 pages and cost $40.
To date, Pioneer Girl has sold more than 160,000 copies and is in its 10th printing. To give a little perspective on the book’s impact on SDHSP’s bottom line: the press’s second bestselling title, Tatanka and the Lakota People, has sold about 15,000 copies.
Koupal, along with the other contributors to Pioneer Girl Perspectives, recently participated in the South Dakota Historical Society’s 2017 history conference on Wilder’s life and legacy, a topic about which people can’t seem to get enough. “We wanted more perspective moving forward with a textual study of the Pioneer Girl,” she says. “Why is she so popular? She wasn’t even a supporter of women’s suffrage and women’s rights,” Koupal says. The first essay in the collection draws from Wilder’s words herself and should be of special interest to booksellers: it is titled “The Speech for the Detroit Book Fair, 1937,” which took place at a department store in the Motor City. It is one of the rare occasions in which Wilder spoke publicly about her life and her books, including some reflections upon the world beyond the prairie and that little house upon the prairie.
The essays examine Wilder from various angles and boast such intriguing titles as “The Strange Case of the Bloody Benders: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and Yellow Journalism” by Caroline Fraser and “Little Myths on the Prairie” by Michael Patrick Hearn.
As an added treat for Wilder fans, the longtime attorney for the Little House Heritage Trust, Noel Silverman, for the first time dishes on Wilder with Koupal in “Her Stories Take You with Her: The Lasting Appeal of the Little House Books.” He attributes Wilder’s popularity to her stories’ emphasis on interdependence over independence. “This narrative says that I can build a better house, faster, if Mr. Edwards will help me, in return for which I will gladly help him build his house,” Silverman says.
Today, 1–2 p.m. Nancy Tystad Koupal will be signing ARCs of Pioneer Girl Perspectives in the Autographing Area, at Table 9.