Early in October, the South Dakota Historical Society Press’s 2015 conference season began with the honor of accepting the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award, Nonfiction, for Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, by Laura Ingalls Wilder and edited by Pamela Smith Hill. The award is presented annually by the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association at the Heartland Fall Forum.
This distinction made the Heartland Fall Forum, which took place in Chicago, Illinois, extra special for the Press because the award is chosen by members of the association, who annually nominate and vote for their favorite books published each year. In other words, the Press’s regional booksellers agree, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography is spectacular, and we could not be more thrilled with their endorsement.
Wonderful conversations with the most enthusiastic book people you can find happened throughout the weekend, and at the awards dinner, Nancy Tystad Koupal, director of the Press and the Pioneer Girl Project, accepted the award, “with both surprise and gratitude,” sharing comments from booksellers throughout the region.
A Nebraska bookseller, for example, told newspaper reporters that “the memoir struck a chord with Midwestern women who loved the “Little House” series and television show as girls, and want to hear an unvarnished version of Wilder’s pioneer childhood, including stories Wilder left out because she considered them inappropriate for children.” Others suggested that the scarcity of the book in the beginning—with only 15,000 copies in circulation prior to Christmas last year—also drove the demand. “Two days after an NPR story aired about the high demand, the book was in third place [on Amazon] behind American Sniper and The Girl on the Train,” the Omaha World Herald reported on 4 February 2016. A bookstore employee in Reno, Nevada, noted that Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography “is like an annotated Little House on the Prairie” that traces everything Wilder wrote about. “It’s this huge beautiful book, and it’s so much fun to spend time with and to hold,” said Sundance Books employee Stephanie Lauer. With such in-store reviews throughout the country, this academic tome has made it to the big time. And we are grateful to all the bookstores in the region and across the country who played a part.
—Jennifer McIntyre and Nancy Tystad Koupal