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Rejected Decades Ago, Publisher Can't Keep 'Pioneer Girl' In Stock

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Rejected Decades Ago, Publisher Can't Keep 'Pioneer Girl' In Stock

Book News & Features

Rejected Decades Ago, Publisher Can't Keep 'Pioneer Girl' In Stock

Rejected Decades Ago, Publisher Can't Keep 'Pioneer Girl' In Stock

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In the 1930s, unknown author Laura Ingalls Wilder couldn't find a publisher for her memoir, Pioneer Girl. Instead, she and her daughter turned the stories into a series of Little House books.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Back in the 1930s, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote a memoir. She could not find a publisher for that book called "Pioneer Girl." Instead, she and her daughter reworked her memories. They became a series of novels the "Little House" books, which tell the story of her family's pioneering ways in the 1800s. This inspired the popular TV show "Little House On The Prairie." Now that original memoir is published. It is available, just barely. It's so popular it's a struggle to find.

AARON ROSENBERG: The word got around that we were one of the few stores to have it, so people were coming from far and wide to get it.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

That's Aaron Rosenberg of Magers & Quinn Booksellers in Minneapolis, and his store is not unique. The autobiography came out last fall, but within weeks, was sold out almost everywhere.

WENDY MCCLURE: The spirit of the story is really kind of the same as in the "Little House" books, but there's just a little bit more.

INSKEEP: Wendy McClure shares the Ingalls Wilder obsession so much so that she wrote her own book called "The Wilder Life." What McClure finds intriguing in the new memoir is what was left out of the novels.

MCCLURE: For one thing, the Ingalls family didn't just move West like they do in the "Little House" books.

INSKEEP: In reality, the Ingalls family at one point moved east. They were in Kansas then ended up in Iowa and helped to run a hotel.

MCCLURE: They had another child. That little boy didn't exist at all in the fictional "Little House" books. And they lived next door to a saloon.

GREENE: As for Pa Ingalls, who many recall as Michael Landon's character in the TV show...

MCCLURE: You know, Pa wasn't really good with money.

GREENE: In fact, he once skipped out on a landlord in the middle of the night.

MCCLURE: It was really kind of a grittier period of the Ingalls family's life.

INSKEEP: Now, in his defense, McClure said Pa Ingalls did pay the landlord back, eventually. For McClure, the raw honesty in the memoir makes the Ingalls's story even more intimate and compelling.

MCCLURE: When you read it, it feels like your own life. Laura wrote this manuscript in the first person. It's still a rough draft, but you know that you're reading directly about her experiences.

INSKEEP: Reading those experiences comes with a price tag. This is a kind of coffee table looking book, and it costs about 40 bucks in theory. But on Amazon, they're going for many times that with one first edition listed at $499, or about a year's salary for a blacksmith back in the pioneer days.

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