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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Recent Pulitzer Prize winner captivates audience in retelling ‘The Little House on the Prairie’ series

Caroline Fraser examines life of ‘The Little House on the Prairie’ author, focused on story inclusion
Erica Uyenbat
Caroline Fraser shared finer details of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

As part of the 2018 Wisconsin Book Festival, Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Fraser presented to a full house in the auditorium of the Wisconsin Historical Society Thursday, Sept. 27.

Held on behalf of Friends of the University of Wisconsin Libraries and in partnership with the Wisconsin Book Festival, Fraser’s lecture was the first of two talks supported by the Friends of the Libraries. The second lecture is Oct. 26 by Jabari Asim, author of “We Can’t Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies and the Art of the Survival.”


Recently, Fraser won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Biography and Autobiography and the 2017 National Book Critics Circle Award for her book “Prairie Fires,” a biography of American literary icon Laura Ingalls Wilder.


With an audience full of “The Little House on the Prairie” devotees, Fraser successfully captivated their attention in her retelling of Wilder’s journey. Encompassing the entirety of her life from poverty as a pioneer girl to the success of “The Little House on the Prairie” series, Fraser chronicles Wilder’s life in intense detail.

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“Prairie Fires” also acts as an exploration into Wilder’s choices as a writer in molding her story to be palatable to a young, American audience. While “The Little House” series depicts the harrowing experiences of pioneer life for Wilder, “Prairie Fires” delves deeper into the aspects of her life unseen in her published works.

In the process of writing the biography, Fraser poured through countless letters, diaries and official historical archives to form an accurate framework of Wilder’s life. Fraser’s thorough research in “Prairie Fires” constitutes broader insight into the accuracy of recounted stories.

With the prominence of “The Little House” series, Wilder’s narrative greatly influenced future generations’ beliefs of the Western Frontier.

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Assistant professor of English and vice president of the Friends of UW Libraries, Joshua Calhoun said Fraser’s work unravels these beliefs to provide a more truthful account.

“Fraser has taken the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder and really used that story to open up the history and mythmaking of the American West,” Calhoun said. “The way that people are telling their stories and the way that they’re reimagining their stories — sometimes what they’re adding in and leaving out about other people groups and other experiences were too tragic to talk about in writing.”

Fraser’s, along with Asim’s upcoming lectures represent a specific theme the Friends of UW Libraries supports.

“[It’s] a conversation about the stories we tell and about how we get to them, what to include and what not to include,” Calhoun said. “How do we tell these stories when we only have the records of those who were the most important or most well supplied? How do we tell those other stories is hopefully a conversation we can pull people into.”

These two lectures are in partnership with the Wisconsin Book Festival. According to their website, the Wisconsin Book Festival is an annual four day celebration in October with a series of events that occur throughout year-round “as a way of generating awareness about the festival and solidifying author programming in the community.”

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With countless events for the festival, authors include Laura Jean Baker, writer of “The Motherhood Affidavits,” JM Holmes, writer of “How Are You Going to Save Yourself,” Samira Ahmed, writer of “Love, Hate and Other Filters” and many more.

Among these various authors, the Wisconsin Book Festival celebrates local writers and poets as well. On Oct. 12, Wisconsin People & Ideas will present readings featuring the winners of the magazine’s 2018 Fiction and Poetry Contest. Fiction winners include Michael Hopkins from Neenah, WI, Jack Harries from Mazomanie, WI and AnnaKay Kruger from Madison. Poetry winners include Jenna Rindo from Pickett, WI, Thomas J. Erickson from Milwaukee and Justine Jones from Madison.

Other Madison author events include Jerry Apps, the writer of “Once a Professor: A Memoir of Teaching in Turbulent Times” and John Roach, the writer of “While I Have Your Attention.”

Those who attend the festival will have the opportunity to learn from a diverse set of individuals through story-telling and explanation.

All Wisconsin Book Festival events are free and open to the public. The venues include Central Library, Discovery Building, Memorial Union, Mystery To Me Bookstore, Overture Center, A Room of One’s Own, Union South, Wisconsin Historical Museum and Wisconsin Historical Society. For more information, you can visit their website.

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