Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

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WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW'S 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

The first comprehensive historical biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved author of the Little House on the Prairie books

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 saga of her life has never been fully told. Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser—the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House series—masterfully fills in the gaps in Wilder’s biography. Revealing the grown-up story behind the most influential childhood epic of pioneer life, she also chronicles Wilder's tumultuous relationship with her journalist daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, setting the record straight regarding charges of ghostwriting that have swirled around the books.

The Little House books, for all the hardships they describe, are paeans to the pioneer spirit, portraying it as triumphant against all odds. But Wilder’s real life was harder and grittier than that, a story of relentless struggle, rootlessness, and poverty. It was only in her sixties, after losing nearly everything in the Great Depression, that she turned to children’s books, recasting her hardscrabble childhood as a celebratory vision of homesteading—and achieving fame and fortune in the process, in one of the most astonishing rags-to-riches episodes in American letters.

Spanning nearly a century of epochal change, from the Indian Wars to the Dust Bowl, Wilder’s dramatic life provides a unique perspective on American history and our national mythology of self-reliance. With fresh insights and new discoveries, Prairie Fires reveals the complex woman whose classic stories grip us to this day.

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About the author

Caroline Fraser is the editor of the Library of America edition of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, and the author of Rewilding the World and God’s Perfect Child. Her writing has appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, and the London Review of Books, among other publications. She lives in New Mexico.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Metropolitan Books
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Published on
Nov 21, 2017
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Pages
368
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ISBN
9781627792776
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Historical
Biography & Autobiography / Literary Figures
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE GUARDIAN, SUNDAY TIMES AND FINANCIAL TIMES

Fifty years after Evelyn Waugh’s death, here is a completely fresh view of one of the most gifted -- and fascinating -- writers of our time, the enigmatic author of Brideshead Revisited.

Graham Greene hailed Waugh as ‘the greatest novelist of my generation’, and in recent years his reputation has only grown. Now Philip Eade has delivered an authoritative and hugely entertaining biography that is full of new material, much of it sensational.

Eade builds upon the existing Waugh lore with access to a remarkable array of unpublished sources provided by Waugh’s grandson, including passionate love letters to Baby Jungman – the Holy Grail of Waugh research - a revealing memoir by Waugh’s first wife Evelyn Gardner (“Shevelyn”), and an equally significant autobiography by Waugh’s commanding officer in World War II.

Eade’s gripping narrative illuminates Waugh’s strained relationship with his sentimental father and blatantly favoured elder brother; his love affairs with male classmates at Oxford and female bright young things thereafter; his disastrous first marriage and subsequent conversion to Roman Catholicism; his insane wartime bravery; his drug-induced madness; his singular approach to marriage and fatherhood; his complex relationship with the aristocracy; the astonishing power of his wit; and the love, fear, and loathing that he variously inspired in others.

One of Eade’s aims is ‘to re-examine some of the distortions and misconceptions that have come to surround this famously complex and much mythologized character’.‘This might look like code for a plan to whitewash the overly blackwashed Waugh,’ comments veteran Waugh scholar Professor Donat Gallagher; ‘but readers fixated on atrocities will not be disappointed . . . I have been researching and writing about Waugh since 1963 and Eade time and again surprised and delighted me.’

Waugh was famously difficult and Eade brilliantly captures the myriad facets of his character even as he casts new light on the novels that have dazzled generations of readers.

In recent years, America’s criminal justice system has become the subject of an increasingly urgent debate. Critics have assailed the rise of mass incarceration, emphasizing its disproportionate impact on people of color. As James Forman, Jr., points out, however, the war on crime that began in the 1970s was supported by many African American leaders in the nation’s urban centers. In Locking Up Our Own, he seeks to understand why.

Forman shows us that the first substantial cohort of black mayors, judges, and police chiefs took office amid a surge in crime and drug addiction. Many prominent black officials, including Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry and federal prosecutor Eric Holder, feared that the gains of the civil rights movement were being undermined by lawlessness—and thus embraced tough-on-crime measures, including longer sentences and aggressive police tactics. In the face of skyrocketing murder rates and the proliferation of open-air drug markets, they believed they had no choice. But the policies they adopted would have devastating consequences for residents of poor black neighborhoods.

A former D.C. public defender, Forman tells riveting stories of politicians, community activists, police officers, defendants, and crime victims. He writes with compassion about individuals trapped in terrible dilemmas—from the men and women he represented in court to officials struggling to respond to a public safety emergency. Locking Up Our Own enriches our understanding of why our society became so punitive and offers important lessons to anyone concerned about the future of race and the criminal justice system in this country.

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