Truth and Fiction and a Feminist Libertarian Firebrand
Aside from the Bible--which I consider to be more of an instruction manual--there are three books I read every year.
The Harry Potter Series
A Girl Of The Limberlost
The Little House Series
All three are highly moral coming-of-age stories, wherein the protaganist(s) have to overcome hardships small and large. They are all very atmospheric books that successfully transport me to another place and time and are peopled with characters I think of as friends. I always knew that HP and Limberlost were fictional, but the Little House books were extra great because they were TRUE. Or so I was taught in school.
One of the bigger disappointments in my life was finding out at 18 that the Little House books were a James Frey-ish 'based on a true story in the most limited of ways' concoction. In fact LH is part of the reason I am so distrustful of 'true' memoirs.
If the fictionalised nature of the books wasn't disappointing enough, a few years ago I came across the scholarly debates about who actually wrote the book. Not only were the books mostly fiction, but now there are a number of experts who agree that they were probably mostly written not by beloved Laura but by her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. Great, just great.
I was a girl of the 70s. Laura was a role model. She was a scrappy girl who grew up on TV and in books and turned out to be a famous writer. I wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder. To me, Rose was nothing more than a footnote, a baby born in the last book of the series and part of the happy ending for the Wilder clan.
Boy did I have it wrong. Rose is the role model. Rose is the person who took her mother's notes and wove them into a captivating series of books grounded in feminist and libertarian ideals. Rose is the woman who wanted America to be as free as the prairie where her mother grew up, and sought to present a picture of a libertarian world in terms so simple a child would yearn for it. Pa hunts without a license and makes his own bullets by the fire. The family moves house as they please, and while Indians show up from time to time the bigger threat to the Ingalls' homesteading is the arbitrary nature of governmental regulation.
I've grown up. I no longer want to be Laura. I want to be Rose.
**Malia has been reading the books with her daughter and wrote a post recently about Laura's feminist integrity. It was that post that inspired me to talk about my love for the books and my evolution of respect for Rose Wilder Lane.