“Pioneer Girl” wins Midwest Independent Booksellers Association Award

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.MIBAI

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.

Awards dinner attendees received a special, limited-release broadside with a facsimile signature that commemorates Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography.

Awards dinner attendees received a special, limited-release broadside with a facsimile signature that commemorates Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography.

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


A Review of “Pioneer Girl” from the “Missouri Historical Review”

Missouri Historical Review edited, with photos

The review above can be found in the October 2015 Missouri Historical Review. The photographs were added by Pioneer Girl Project staff for the Project website.

For more reviews of Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiographyclick here to visit the Pioneer Girl Project Review page.

“Most important work of its kind,” Foreword Reviews Magazine takes a look at Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography

Foreword coverWilder’s memoir is a fascinating piece of American history, but it’s the annotations that set Pioneer Girl apart as the most important work of its kind.

Generations have grown up with Laura Ingalls Wilder through the Little House on the Prairie books and television show, reminders of the courageous families that braved the wild frontier. More than eighty years after it was first written, the memoir that started it all, handwritten in pencil on lined tablets, will finally be published. Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, edited by Pamela Smith Hill, is clearly the definitive work on Wilder. It thrills with new insights and mature content, educates with historical facts and documentation, and enlightens with cultural perspective and commentary, all while maintaining the spirit of adventure and integrity that is the backbone of the Little House world and Wilder herself.

Pioneer Girl, a first-person, nonfiction account completed by Wilder in 1930 when she was in her sixties, chronicles the Ingalls family’s journey as they made their way back and forth across the land, beginning in Kansas, 1869, when Wilder was just two years old, through 1888 in Dakota Territory, when Wilder was a young married woman of twenty-one. The manuscript appears in its entirety, complete with misspellings, musings, and notes from Wilder for her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who acted as her mother’s editor and literary advisor.

In and of itself, Pioneer Girl is a fascinating slice of Americana, but it is Hill’s annotations, based on years of research and the efforts of the Pioneer Girl Project contributors, that set Pioneer Girl apart as the most important and relevant work of its kind.

The annotations range from informative to speculative, but each shows respect for the subject as well as impressive knowledge of the entire Little House series and other versions of the memoir, which Wilder and Lane had hoped to publish for an adult audience. The details are astonishing. For example, when Wilder mentions casually that, “the wild roses bloomed,” Hill identifies the “prairie rose” or “rosa arkansana.” A detailed description follows, and Little House on the Prairie is referenced, where a passage in Wilder’s distinct voice notes, “The roses scented the wind, and along the road fresh blossoms, with their new petals and golden centers, looked up like little faces.” In this way, many notes link the information in Pioneer Girl to its counterpart, whether juvenile fiction or serials credited to Wilder, or in some cases “borrowed” by Lane for fictionalization.Foreword review

Great attention is paid to accuracy, and Hill notes when and where Wilder’s recollections stray from historical records, as well as intentional changes made to improve the narrative. Every detail, from the weather and geography to likely romantic trysts and scandals, songs sung, books read, and food eaten, was verified for authenticity. Photographs, maps, and other original treasures like these are sprinkled throughout. Four appendices offer additional insights and are followed by an extensive bibliography and index.

With Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, Hill has ensured that not only will Laura Ingalls Wilder continue to inspire, but that her audience will grow and expand for generations to come.—Pallas Gates McCorquodale, Foreword Reviews

Find more reviews of Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography here.