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Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Hardcover)

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I was that kid, the one who read and re-read the Little House books obsessively. Eventually I had to be forbidden from discussing them at the dinner table. I also devored every biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder I could find. As such, I thought I knew pretty much all there was to know about her. Having now read this masterful new book by Caroline Fraser, I know I was wrong. Fraser covers Laura's life- especially her development as a writer and sometimes turbulent relationship with her daughter Rose- more thoroughly and thoughfully than I've seen anywhere else. But you don't need to be a devoted LIW fan to enjoy this book. Fraser does a wonderful job of setting Laura's life within the broader American historical context. Prairie Fires' place on the NYT 2017 Best 10 Books of the Year list was very well-deserved. 

— From Jill's Picks


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

One of The New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of the Year
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography

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 Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser--the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House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.

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.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781627792769
ISBN-10: 1627792767
Publisher: Metropolitan Books
Publication Date: November 21st, 2017
Pages: 640
Language: English