WEST BRANCH — Millions of readers of “Little House on the Prairie” believe they know Laura Ingalls — the pioneer girl who survived blizzards and near-starvation on the Great Plains, and the woman who wrote the famous autobiographical books.
But the true story of her life has never been fully told. The “Little House” books were not only fictionalized but edited — a profound act of myth-making and self-transformation. Now, drawing upon unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records,
Caroline Fraser — the editor of the Library of America edition of the “Little House” series — has filled in the gaps in Wilder’s biography, setting the record straight regarding charges of ghostwriting that have swirled around the books and uncovering the grown-up story behind the most influential childhood epic of pioneer life.
Fraser won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Biography for “Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder,” which tapped archival research to draw a fuller portrait of the author of the “Little House on the Prairie” books. Her efforts also garnered the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award For Biography, the 2018 Plutarch Award and the 2017 National Book Critics Circle Award for Best Biography.
She will help bring to the real Laura Ingalls Wilder to light during a discussion at 2 p.m. Monday (9/3) at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch.
Born in Seattle, Fraser holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University in English and American literature. Formerly on the editorial staff of The New Yorker, she is the author of three non-fiction books, the award-winning “Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder,” “God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church,” and “Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution,” all published by Metropolitan Books.
She served as editor of the Library of America edition of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books and has written for The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic Monthly, Outside Magazine, and The London Review of Books, among other publications.
Fraser lives in Santa Fe, N.M., with her husband, Hal Espen.
WHAT: Award-winning author Caroline Fraser
WHERE: Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, 210 Parkside Dr., West Branch
WHEN: 2 p.m. Monday (9/3)
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ADMISSION: Free with paid museum admission; $10 adults, $5 ages 62 and over, active/retired military and college students, $3 ages 6 to 15, free ages 5 and under