Some years back, I picked up a copy of Willa Cather's My Antonia
at a church fair book table. I figured I might try to read it. I vaguely remember that my older sister had been forced to read it in junior high and had hated the experience. Could it be all that bad a book? Nope, it was actually quite good. Also, I realized about half way through the book that it was about my grandmother and her parents. My grandmother had been a little girl on a homestead in Dakota Territory. Her parents then fled the snow and cold of Dakota in a covered wagon and ended up in Kansas, which was where I got to know my grandmother. Suffice to say, I got interested in life on the prairies back in the day. So, I read more Willa Cather. Then I discovered Oscar Micheaux
, who had been an African American homesteader in Dakota.
Almost exactly two years ago, I discovered Little House in the Big Woods
on one of the Gutenberg sites and re-read it. I had first read it back in the dark ages when I was in elementary school and Eisenhower was the President. Naturally, I wanted to move on to the Prairie, but none of the other Laura Ingalls Wilder books were available on Gutenberg sites, nor on my library's Overdrive site. Just recently, I discovered our library now did carry those books, so immediately put a hold on this one, Little House on the Prairie
It's interesting to me that this book and the one that precedes it are a sort of how-to version of life back in the day: how to kill a hog; how to make soap; how to make a log cabin; how to dig a well; and so forth. The stories are rather sanitized and idealized. My spouse finds them sick-making to read these days because things are so saccharine. I didn't mind that much. I loved the lyrical descriptions of the prairie. Not only did I visit my grandmother in Kansas a number of times, but I actually lived there for two years as an adult and wrote my most famous published work while I was there. (don't ask: if you're on GoodReads, it won't be your cup of tea, unless you're a very peculiar kind of physical chemist.) So, I do love me some prairie now and again and like revisiting it occasionally, if only in literature.
Anyway, I liked this book rather well. I was appalled by the racist handling of the interactions with Indians (a.k.a. Native Americans), but the book was a product of it's time. One needs to point this out if one is reading to their children or grandchildren these days, and discuss how we need to recalibrate our thinking about other people.