Good Readin’

Newly arrived in my mailbox: Little House, Long Shadow by Anita Clair Fellman. It’s a political and cultural take on how the Little House series has infused its readers with political thinking, perhaps helped shape a culture of individualism. Not having read the book, that premise alone doesn’t sound like something I’d agree with. I’ve gotten a lot from Laura Ingalls Wilder, but overt political thought isn’t, I’m afraid, one of them. I’m still excited to read it.

I love how brand-new hardcover books feel. It seems I buy so few of them these days. I love the feeling of anticipation of an unread book. I love finding a new book about Laura. Between this and Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist, I’ve got some richly satisfying reading in my queue.

11 Responses to Good Readin’

  1. Amy says:

    The Clair book does sound interesting, and I agree with your initial thoughts. I’ll be curious to see what you think of it.

    I don’t buy hardcovers like I used to either, but bless Costco–their selection is hit or miss, but I recently picked up Cathedral of the Sea, a 600-page, $27 hardcover for only $14–or what it will be when it comes out in paperback. And I don’t have to wait, either for the paperback or the library waitlist! Wish they carried more books.

  2. sgaissert says:

    I can see how the argument could be made. In the link you give, it says “Fellman argues that the popularity of these books—abetted by Lane’s overtly libertarian views—helped lay the groundwork for a negative response to big government and a positive view of political individualism, contributing to the acceptance of contemporary conservatism while perpetuating a mythic West. ”

    I believe that many Americans would define an American as an individual, a pioneer, a cowboy. Of course, I think John Wayne movies contributed more to that image than LIW books. But when you look at the red state-blue state map the cable news channels love to show, where are the red states? They are in the middle of the country; they are the “Laura” states. The people who made the journey there in the 1800s were different from the people who stayed in the East, I believe.

    And it makes sense that the people who went West and “made it on their own” would oppose big government spending programs (as Rose certainly did), while the people in the crowded coastal cities who had less control over their own destinies would welcome them.

  3. Dakotagirl says:

    I had never given individualism and political theory much thought in the LH books until I read GITLH by Holtz. After noticing the difference between LIW’s drafts and the finished product, I began paying a lot more attention to the theory. i believe the LH books did have an influence on creating an increase in the individualism movement, but more in the rural areas of the country.

    City dwellers had a much harder time dealing with the depression. They did not have time for learning new political theories. Most of them had no way of gardening or raising livestock and were dependent on city life. My mother and her family was a prime example. My mother was the youngest of 6 children, she was born a week before the stock market crash in 1929. Her mother was divorced trying to raise 6 children on her own. She worked in cotton mills, cleaned rich people’s houses, picked cotton, anything she could do to feed her children. When my mother and her siblings were old enough, they too went to work in the fields and cotton mills. If it had not been for some social services, I am not sure what would have happened to them.

    My husband’s parents were the opposite. They were raised on a farm with livestock and a large garden to feed from. They suffered, but not near to the point of true hunger as a lot of people.

  4. Jonni says:

    I look forward to reading Little House, Long Shadow but I tend to approach books like this with a healthy dose of skepticism. Sometimes when an author is so bent on making a point, especially a political one, they tend to make a LOT of assumptions or completely slant observations, ignoring anything that might not fit into their narrow scope. I’m hoping this book will be able to present its point but still maintain balance. It’s on my Amazon wish list so I anticipate getting it before the summer is over.

  5. Rebecca says:

    Dakotagirl, I had those thoughts too regarding WHY Laura and Rose felt the way they did about the New Deal and politics. In asking my grandmother about growing up during the Depression and what that was like for her family, I learned the same thing you express above — she said well it wasn’t really that bad. Why? They lived on a farm. She said, for us, life pretty much went on the same as always, we grew our own food so we always had plenty to eat, but the people in town had it much harder.

    I definitely think that contributed to Laura’s and Rose’s thoughts during the time — they lived on a farm, they knew how to provide for themselves, they were of pioneer stock. I’m all for independence and self-reliance and am perfectly capable of it in the society that we live in, but if something were to happen to change all that, I’d be completely incapable of supporting myself. I don’t have the skills nor the means to grow and prepare all my own food from scratch, make my own clothes, etc. If I couldn’t buy food and clothing at a store, I’d be out of luck, and if I couldn’t earn money through the skills I DO have to be able to buy things from a store, I’d be out of luck.

    I just pray disaster never comes. 🙂

  6. Becky Harris says:

    I guess my family must be peculiar because we had the opposite experience. My paternal grandmother lived in the city and didn’t think the depression was that bad. She referred to it as the good old days and often talked about how inexpensive things were then. She had an office job and was employed the entire time. My maternal family lived in the Ozarks (not far from Mansfield!) and really struggled. I think a lot of farmers in the dust bowl states during that time were pretty hungry.

  7. Jonni says:

    My parents both grew up in the dust bowl during the Depression, both my grandfathers were farmers, and both families had to eventually move to Idaho just to keep from starving. There was nothing for them, no jobs and no land worth farming anymore.

  8. Rebecca says:

    Interesting… perhaps it has to do with the type of farming? My grandmother’s family farmed to provide for themselves, not to sell crops or animals to earn an income. The concept of poverty may also be relative based on what you’re used to… she grew up in the poorest county in America, so they were already poor before the Depression ever hit, so it didn’t make much difference in their lives.

  9. Becky Harris says:

    They certainly weren’t well before the Depression either. Maybe it has something to do with geographical location? The middle Mid-West had a bad drought cycle during those years. They mainly farmed to provide for themselves but not much was growing.

  10. […] been discussing Little House, Long Shadow, which I haven’t yet read but have blogged about here. (Check out the comments on this post — they’re fabulous.) Since a claim the book […]

  11. Debbie Reese says:

    My copy of Fellman’s book arrived a few days ago. I look forward to reading it. I’m a former schoolteacher, now have a position as assistant prof in American Indian Studies. I am a tribally enrolled Pueblo Indian woman (Nambe Pueblo, NM); raised there, etc.

    We tend not to ‘see’ things like political messages in books unless they are at odds with our own. Being able to see these things is, in Education and Critical Literacy, called “reading against the grain” for the “selective tradition” or the “hidden curriculum.” It doesn’t necessarily mean that the grain, or the tradition, or the curriculum are bad, but it does ask students to consider what a text is trying to accomplish. Students may agree with the goal of the text, or they may disagree with it. The important thing is to be aware of it.

    I read texts for the ways that American Indians are presented in them. There’s a lot of Indian imagery in LHOP that I find deeply troubling for its effects on kids. I maintain a blog where I write about problematic text and imagery; I also write about books that are better at conveying that historical period, conflicts at that time, etc. My site is called American Indians in Children’s Literature. Teachers and parents submit items that I post, too.

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