Caroline Fraser Prairie Fires

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The true story of Laura Ingalls Wilde’s life has never been fully told. The Little House books were not only fictionalized but brilliantly edited, a profound act of myth-making and self-transformation. Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser—the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House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 story with PRAIRIE FIRES: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder [Metropolitan Books]. The first comprehensive historical biography for adults, PRAIRIE FIRES separates Laura Ingalls Wilder the woman from the stereotypes and misconceptions readers of her books might have of her life. Set as it was against nearly a century of dramatic change, Wilder’s life provides a unique perspective on American history and our national mythology of self-reliance, and is both stranger and darker than her books. After a brutally hard childhood on the frontier, Wilder found herself married at 18 and a mother a year later. After a series of personal tragedies, including the loss of a child and her husband’s crippling stroke, Wilder uprooted herself and moved with her husband seven hundred miles south, and began a long climb out of poverty accomplished through grit and hard work. At the age of sixty, after losing nearly everything in the Depression, Wilder turned to children’s books, partially on the urging of her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who had found success in the literary trade herself. Fraser’s examination of Wilder’s tumultuous relationship with her daughter sets the record straight regarding charges of ghostwriting that have swirled around the books. With fresh insights and new discoveries, Prairie Fires reveals the complex woman whose classic stories grip us to this day.

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