On children’s awards and complicated figures in history

Once upon a time there were children, children who would one day grow up to learn that people are complex, messy, a mix of good and bad words, deeds, and thoughts. That day is not today, so lets just chill out a second with all the ruckus concerning the formerly named “Laura Ingalls Wilder Award.”

The Association for Library Service (ALSC) bestows the now titled ‘Children’s Literature Legacy Award‘ annually to an author who has made significant and lasting contribution to children’s literature.”

Many have responded to the change with much angst and gnashing of teeth labeling it as another attempt to rewrite history.

These people do not understand what re-writing history looks like.

No one is saying that Laura Ingalls Wilder, who was the first recipient of said award, has not made lasting contributions to children’s literature. No one is saying she did not inspire generations of authors and readers. No one is saying she did not inspire a just short of a decade long television series that took a whole lotta liberties with the text near the end there…

What they are saying is this. Perhaps we don’t need to continue celebrating them the way we used to? Maybe? Just maybe this many decades later we don’t need to celebrate with full abandon an author who during the time it was fully acceptable for her community to other Native Americans, blacks, and i’m just gonna take a swing and say she probably sometime said some awkward insensitive things about Asians.

But in a way removing her name from the award is more honorable than not. In so we further acknowledge Laura Ingalls Wilder not as some one sided cartoon but as a real live person whose mind and work we continue to dive into, turn over, and rearticulate for future generations. This is the work for adults, not our children. And I certainly would rather the next generation have a few years of ignorant bliss before they realize how horrid we have been (and continue to be) to each other.