Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Editing Little House

For the past 6 months or so, we've been reading Kinsey the Little House series as her bedtime story, one chapter a night, and it's been one of the most fun things we've done. We're on These Happy Golden Years right now and about 100 pages into it. Kinsey loves how the relationship between Laura and Almanzo has been developing, and has even had a little crush on Cap Garland since we first met him in The Long Winter. Sheryl and I have also become interested in Laura's story and how much the truth is reflected in the books and are planning on reading John Miller's Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder.

There have been two times though where we have decided to edit Laura a little. In one instance in Little House on the Prairie, Ma and a neighbor lady are having a conversation and one of them says that "the only good Indian is a dead Indian," and Laura relates how Ma hated Indians. Sheryl and I discussed that a little bit and while we read the first, and edited the second to say that Ma disliked Indians, we also said that "Indians" wasn't the best way to describe the people who lived on the land before us.

The other time, we completely excised a section of a chapter of Little Town on the Prairie. There is a chapter describing a "literary," which was basically parties that De Smet had every week to get people together. They had spelling bees, living wax statues, singings, and things like that. But one of the literaries they had was a black-faced minstrel show where the men of the town including Pa Ingalls participated. I thought a lot about this and Sheryl and I talked and we decided to not read that section at all. I understand that Kinsey would probably not have and issue with it and Sheryl and I might have been exercising a little too much caution with it, but the truth is that we simply decided that we didn't want to expose her to that. She has such an innocent exposure to race and race relations right now that we want to preserve that for as long as possible.


Scott said...

Good move. She will be exposed to hatred and prejudice soon enough.

Jennifer Thompson said...

Oh, Cap Garland. I'd forgotten about him. Definitely crush-worthy. :)

I remember thinking the minstrel show was kind of weird, although I don't remember connecting it with any black people I knew. But that was twenty years ago. Trying to preserve her innocence is a good thing.

Clarissa said...

I read those on my own. (Don't remember my parents reading to me -- never wanted them to once I could.) From her age through the next couple of years, probably. I didn't think a thing in the world about the Indian talk or the minstrel show, other than a simple childish acceptance of "that's just how it was back then."

Sometimes one of the problems of being intelligent is the tendency to overanalyze that comes along with it ... don't stress too much. Glad you and Sheryl discuss and are in agreement, though. As it should be.

Justin said...

Yeah, I don't know how I feel about editing that stuff out. You can explain that it is wrong, but scrubbing history of anything bad, dooms us to repeat it.

Plus, I read that stuff when I was in 2nd-3rd grade, and apparently the blackface stuff went right over my head.

Phil said...

I thought about that, Justin. And I agree that those points would probably go over her head right now, but in this case we decided with safe approach. I'm sure those conversations will be happening in the next couple of years anyway.

Thomas+ said...

I've got no problem with editing. I'm glad my kids like the Bible, for instance, but there is a lot of stuff in there that is not appropriate for them at this age. Telling a 6 year old about rape, for instance, should only be done if it has happened to them or they have seen it. Otherwise, its psychologically damaging.

Oh, and "Indian" is a fine word. It was in consultation with the tribes that the Smithsonian named their museum "The National Museum of the American Indian" in 2004, for example.

livelaughlove95 said...

I remember fudging the lines a bit with the whole dead Indian part but I don't think I changed anything with the minstrel show. Probably because I knew, at the time, it would completely go over her head. But the words good Indian/dead Indian and hate are pretty powerful.

Speaking of editing books...when I read the Cat in the Hat Comes Back, I totally "edit" the part where the little cats say they are going to kill the snow spots with their good guns. I say they're getting rid of snow spots with their pop guns, instead.

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