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State Historical Society of Iowa Press Release

For immediate release April 6, 2009

Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

State Historical Library book group meets April 15

Topic: The life behind the legend of Laura Ingalls Wilder

(DES MOINES) – The State Historical Library next week will explore the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of eight “Little House on the Prairie” novels, as documented in John E. Miller’s “Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman Behind the Legend.”

 “Book Discovery Discussions” will meet at 11:45 a.m., Wednesday, April 15, 2009, in the Heritage Classroom, State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines. The meeting is free and open to the public. Participants may sample a pioneer-style stew, bring their own brown-bag lunch, or get food to go from the Historical Building’s Café Baratta’s. Contact State Historical Librarian Susan Jellinger at susan.jellinger@iowa.gov or 515-281-5111 for more information.

 Miller, in the book’s introduction, says most people think of Wilder as a young girl or adolescent, primarily because of the novels, or as a sweet old lady who lived in the Missouri Ozarks and waited until her mid-sixties to start writing about her childhood.

 “My primary purpose in writing this biography is to confront the question of how ‘Laura,’ the girl depicted in the ‘Little House’ books, became ‘Laura Ingalls Wilder,’ the author of these classics of children’s literature,” Miller says in his introduction. “To write her ‘autobiographical’ novels, Wilder needed to undergo a process of becoming, which depended heavily upon the inheritance that she had received both from her family and, across the years, from the various environments in which she lived.”

 Following is the rest of the 2008-2009 “Book Discovery Discussions” schedule:

 May 20, 2009 – 11:45 a.m.
“The Rise of Jonas Olsen: A Norwegian Immigrant’s Saga” by Johannes B. Wist
Originally published serially in the Norwegian language newspaper, Decorah Posten, in the 1920s, The Rise of Jonas Olsen illustrates an immigrant’s struggle to preserve his identity and heritage while striving to become fully accepted as an American.

 June 17, 2009 – 11:45 a.m.
“Chautauqua Summer” by Julie McDonald
This novel takes the reader along with young Lem, a 17-year-old musician plucked from Harlan, Iowa, to travel the Chautauqua circuit with the Royal Serenaders. It is a coming-of-age story heavily sprinkled with historical tidbits of people and places from the early part of the 20th century.

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The State Historical Society of Iowa is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and is a trustee of Iowa's historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa's past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa's historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Visit www.iowahistory.org or call 515-281-5111 for more information.

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