Caroline Fraser, Biography Winner for ‘Prairie Fires’

By Elizabeth Taylor

NBCC biography committee chair Elizabeth Taylor, presented this citation to Caroline Fraser, author of Prairie Fires.

In her extraordinary Prairie Fires,Caroline Fraser has brilliantly recast our understanding of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life and times, and affirmed her influence in shaping the iconic West’s enduring history.

Fraser captures the full arc of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life in three acts: poverty, struggle, and reinvention. The self-sufficient pioneer nostalgia that bathed the Little House on the Prairie books was a profound act of American myth-making and self-transformation by a woman who had re-imagined her frontier life as epic and uplifting. Disappointment and loss transformed into parable. Wilder projected her vision of the West and came to see herself as the embodiment of it.

Fraser keys into the vexed relationship between Wilder and her profligate daughter, Rose, an author of bitter political screeds and locates a dark libertarian strain running through this family – and the pioneer spirit.

Prairie Fires considers a cultural touchstone and magnificently places it in the American experience and imagination.

Photo by John Midgley.