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Prairie Lotus Hardcover – March 3, 2020
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From the Publisher
Who else was there?
Some thoughts about writing Prairie Lotus, by Linda Sue Park
When I read or write historical fiction, there’s one question that’s always at the forefront of my mind: Who else was there? Much of the history that we learn in school is limited to the famous names and the big events. To get a more complete understanding of our world, we need a variety of perspectives, not just the famous ones.
Prairie Lotus is my attempt to explore the incomplete story of the American frontier. Through history classes and social studies in school, as well as via popular culture and the media, too many of us have internalized a story about the American West that stars White settlers and White cowboys and covered wagons and log cabins. That story ignores the viewpoints and contributions of countless people who had different experiences of the American West.
Hanna, the main character in Prairie Lotus, wants to go to school in the one-room schoolhouse, make a friend, and help out in her father’s dress-goods shop. But because she is part Asian, she faces constant racism from her White neighbors. Her simple desires prove to be difficult, even dangerous, and she has to find her own way to survive and thrive.
Hanna’s story is in many respects a kind of ‘conversation’ with the iconic Little House books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. As a child, I spent hours imagining that I too lived on the frontier in the 1800s, and that I was Laura’s best friend.
Yet there were also passages in those books that made me uncomfortable, even unhappy. Several characters, including Laura’s Ma, repeatedly express racist attitudes about Native Americans. I knew in my heart that Ma would never have allowed Laura to play with me, because I had dark hair and dark eyes and tan skin like the Indians she so hated. Prairie Lotus is my attempt to reconcile my childhood love of the Little House books with my eventual understanding of their painful racism.
While the frontier-town setting of Prairie Lotus may be familiar to many readers, Hanna’s interactions with both the town’s residents and women from the nearby Ihanktonwan reservation will, I hope, provide another way to think about this chapter of American history. For example, there are scenes where Hanna hears the character Wichapiwin and other Native women speaking the Dakota language. Children’s books of the past usually had Native characters communicating in grunts and pidgin. To show them speaking their own language is part of a more complete truth.
Prairie Lotus also explores the importance of the work women did on the frontier. The history textbooks focus mainly on the accomplishments of the men who passed laws and fought battles and had towns and roads and buildings named for them. As a child, one reason I loved the Little House books was because of their emphasis on the activities of everyday life recounted in great detail, like preparing food and making clothing and going to school. These were spheres where women had power, and again, their stories have largely been ignored. Who else was there? Women like Wichapiwin and girls like Hanna.
Young readers want and deserve a fuller, richer truth. I hope that Prairie Lotus will prompt them to ask questions and seek out lesser-known stories that can contribute to a greater understanding of the world.
Here are a few more titles about the American West to get them started.
- The Birchbark House series, by Louise Erdrich
- Dragon’s Gate and The Traitor, by Laurence Yep
- Under a Painted Sky, by Stacy Lee
- Escape to Gold Mountain, by David H.T. Wong
- Bad News for Outlaws, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
★ "Fans of the Little House books will find many of the small satisfactions of Laura's stories...here in abundance. Park brings new depth to these well-trodden tales, though, as she renders visible both the xenophobia of the town's white residents, which ranges in expression from microaggressions to full-out assault, and Hanna's fight to overcome it with empathy and dignity.... Remarkable."—Kirkus, STARRED review
★ "Strongly reminiscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s novels in its evocative, detailed depictions of daily frontier life....[Hanna's] painful experiences, including microaggressions, exclusion, and assault, feel true to the time and place, and Park respectfully renders Hanna’s interactions with Ihanktonwan women. An absorbing, accessible introduction to a troubled chapter of American history."—Publishers Weekly, STARRED review
★ "In her latest middle-grade historical-fiction masterpiece, Park conjures the resourceful and industrious spirit of America’s westward expansion without ignoring the ugly veneer of racism....An incredible and much-needed addition to the historical-fiction canon."—Booklist, STARRED review
★ "Park’s novel is clearly in conversation with [Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books], from Hanna’s friendlier interactions with, and more thoughtful views about, members of the Ihanktonwan tribe to racist attitudes among LaForge’s townspeople, who object to Hanna’s presence in the school and blame her after a local man assaults her. But this novel stands on its own, with a vividly drawn protagonist in self-reliant Hanna." —The Horn Book Magazine, STARRED review
★ "A sometimes uncomfortable yet triumphant story from the world of 'Little House on the Prairie' told through a marginalized perspective; this is a must-read for middle grades and beyond." —School Library Journal, STARRED review
★ "Narrated by a smart, clear-sighted and tremendously likable protagonist, Prairie Lotus is a richly layered work of historical fiction set in a landscape that will be familiar to Little House on the Prairie readers….As one can expect from Park, Prairie Lotus's gorgeous, fluid storytelling carries the reader along swiftly to a satisfying conclusion.” —Shelf Awareness, STARRED review
"In this accessible exploration of a biracial teen’s prairie year, Park invites fellow Wilder fans to consider the struggle for respect and independence roiling beneath the iconic sunbonnet." —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
About the Author
Linda Sue Park is the author of the Newbery Medal-winning A Single Shard, the best-seller A Long Walk to Water, and the highly-praised novel Prairie Lotus. She has also written several acclaimed picture books and serves on the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. She lives in western New York with her family. www.lindasuepark.com, Twitter: @LindaSuePark
- Publisher : Clarion Books (March 3, 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 272 pages
- ISBN-10 : 132878150X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1328781505
- Reading age : 10 - 12 years
- Lexile measure : 730L
- Grade level : 5 - 7
- Item Weight : 13.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.97 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #9,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Well researched, well written book about a girl who is half-Chinese who travels with her widowed father to an area very much like De Smit of the Laura Ingles Wilder fame. There she encounters all the prejudice that is all too prevalent at that time.
Read this in one day, I could not put it down. Through it all Hanna keeps her composure, remembers what her mother always taught her, and moves on.
Highly, highly recommend this book.