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Little House, Long Shadow: Laura Ingalls Wilder's Impact on American Culture Hardcover – May 21, 2008

3.3 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Hardcover, May 21, 2008
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Editorial Reviews


“An important, impeccably researched, and original book. Fellman breaks new ground in probing children’s literature as a source of political socialization and of adult ideology.”
—Elizabeth Jameson, coeditor of The Women’s West

“There is much to admire in this book. Many have casually noted these connections, but no one has put them all together so well.”—William Holtz, author of The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane

About the Author

Anita Clair Fellman is Chair of Women’s Studies and Associate Professor of History at Old Dominion University and lives in Norfolk, Virginia. She is coeditor of Ourselves as Students: Multicultural Voices in the Classroom.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: University of Missouri; 1st edition (May 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826218032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826218032
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,541,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It is sad to me that a book as thoughtful, as quiet and as tolerant as this attracts readers such as the first reviewer. This is both a very scholarly and a very personal and self-reflective study. I was most moved by the fact that Prof. Fellman begins with a confession about her own connection to the 'Little House' series as a young reader and then as a mother, touching on that soft spot reserved in all our hearts for primordial experiences, for our `madeleines.' She then goes on to analyze the political and cultural implications of their impact--as cultural historians would do with such popular books for young people as 'Little Women,' 'Harry Potter' or the fiction of C.S. Lewis. If anything, the first reviewer is representative of the insidious message that Fellman reveals as inherent in a certain kind of political libertarianism, of the animus on which it feeds. She bases her conclusions on vast amounts of archival research, her own interviews, and many contemporary theories--and weaves them into a seamless narrative so that for those who don't want to bother, the endnotes are just embellishment...It is really a tour de force. Fellman brings a feminist perspective to bear on the roles of women, the perspectives of woman, etc., but again, without becoming strident. Her insights on the mother-daughter relationships between Laura and her mother and then Laura and Rose are equally instructive. (Perhaps the most enlightening fact is that Laura did not visit her mother from 1902 till she died in 1924!!!) Finally, the chapter on `Revisiting the Little Houses' with its discussion of the expanding frontier, the effaced Native Americans and `Manifest Destiny' is extremely powerful and informed by immense scholarship. This book is a must for all those interested in popular culture, American culture and the power of fiction on the historical imagination.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is not too much of an overstatement to say that many political and social conservatives hate this book. One only has to go to Internet sites devoted to the work of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and read comments left here, to realize that many see Anita Clair Fellman's work as an attack on both traditional American values and the much loved author of the Little House series. Nothing could be further from the truth in my opinion. The author clearly states several times how much she loved these books as a young mother reading them to her boys, and how she still loves them. This is one way of determining if a critic has actually read Ms Fellman's book -- those who haven't consistently accuse the author of hating the books.

Ms Fellman thoughtfully analyzes the series, how they were written and edited, how they have been used in the classroom, in private homes, and in the public forum. She makes a good case that Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, worked together on framing stories that reflected their conservative political philosophy: they might feel right at home today in the contemporary Tea Party movement. A careful reading of the Little House series shows that in nearly every case where government is mentioned in the books, it is in a negative light. The Ingalls family is shown frequently as an isolated unit, even when there is much documentation to indicate they often lived in town, took in boarders, and their geographic distance from settlements was greatly exaggerated. When the oldest daughter Mary, permanently blinded by a childhood illness, needed an education it was partly funded by the state govenment, which is not mentioned in Ingalls works.
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1 Comment 16 of 17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
When Wilder and Lane declared that the books were "true," they meant that the books represented Wilder's experiences as she remembered them (and as Lane "ran them through her typewriter" for publication), not that everything happened in the order in which incidents appear in the book. It's too bad that some commenters don't understand that Fellman is not attacking Wilder and that Wilder's books are aiming at an emotional rather than a literal truth. This is apparent to anyone who has read their letters and the "Pioneer Girl" manuscript on which the books are based as well as the books.

Fellman has done her research well, and this book is a good complement to other works on Wilder (and Lane). It sorts out the themes of Wilder's work, discusses the ways in which people have responded to the novels, and devotes a chapter to linking individualism with the Reagan neoconservatism of the 1980s (not attacking conservatism, by the way). If you'd like to read a nuanced, serious, and scholarly treatment of Wilder, try this book.
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Format: Hardcover
The first reviewer seems to have forgotten some things about LIW--such as the fact that she refused to have the word "obey" used in her marriage ceremoney to Almanzo, the fact that she stated she did NOT want to get married and settle down but wanted to be free to do as she pleased, that she did not want to be a farmer's wife as it was "a hard life for a woman", and was hardly the submissive little domestic goddess she makes her out to be. And just because a book differs from you politically, does not make it "trash".

I appreciated this book and found it to be insightful and interesting.
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