Books and authors speak to each other across the centuries. This is the Great Conversation. Author Linda Sue Park enters into the conversation with Laura Ingalls Wilder in her new book Prairie Lotus.
In the author’s note at the end of Prairie Lotus, Park writes about how much she loved the Little House books growing up. However, there were never any characters that looked like her. She dreamed of being friend with a young Laura Inglalls, but what would Ma Ingalls–well known for hating Native Americans–have thought of her?
But this story goes beyond Little House fan fiction to address the very real issues that disturb so many contemporary readers of Wilder’s beloved series. This book isn’t meant to replace the Little House books, but it is a wonderful addition to the conversation.
Hanna and her papa have been on the move ever since the death of her mother, a Chinese immigrant raised by missionaries. They’ve finally found a town with opportunities, and Hanna dreams of being able to go to school and be a dressmaker in her father’s shop. Her father is a gruff man, and tries to protect her in his own way. But Hanna is determined. Despite facing prejudice from most of the town, Hanna is able to graduate from school, make a friend, and become a dressmaker like her mother. Along the way, she faces battles against racism not only against herself but against the Wichapiwin women she encounters.
What I Loved about Prairie Lotus
- Grace–Hanna is a well-drawn character, and she deals with challenging and even traumatic situations. Yet she does so with grace and is willing to show forgiveness to those who hurt her unintentionally.
- Conversation–As a wrote above, this book is meant to be in conversation with the Little House books. If you’ve been uncomfortable with the racism in the Little House books but weren’t sure how to address it, this book offers a great place to dive in.
What Parents Should Know
- Be prepared for conversations–The racism and prejudice Hanna faces is pervasive, even from mostly well-meaning characters.
- Attempted assault–Two drunk men attempt to assault Hanna while also using racial slurs and implying that Chinese women are loose. While the worst that happens is a ripped dress and a cut shoulder, Hanna is blamed for the event. You may want to read ahead (this scene is near the end of the book. Be prepared to discuss this scene with your kids or edit for more sensitive readers.